This tale of a young girl (Saara Chaudry) living in Taliban-controlled Kabul, who disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family, was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar but lost out to Coco, because going up against a Pixar movie is essentially a Kobayashi Maru (a no-win situation presumably named after this Japanese cat).
Adapted from Deborah Ellis’ novel by Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (a nation who have just struck their own blow for women’s rights), The Breadwinner brings to the foreground the child’s-eye sense of threat that lurked in the edges of Song of the Sea, switching that film’s gentle psychedelia for a realistic and often violent depiction of daily life in Afghanistan (this is the studio’s first 12A-rated feature).
But those fantasy elements are not lost, taking the form of a charming story within the story that helps the characters simultaneously escape from and understand their harsh surroundings. In Ghibli terms, this is Grave of the Fireflies to Song of the Sea‘s My Neighbour Totoro.
The picture’s combined subject matter and animated storytelling make it a strong companion piece to films like He Named Me Malala or Timbuktu (let’s call it Timbukthree), mixing real-world politics with dreamlike escapism to create gripping, relevant cinema that’s well worth your dough. Wonderfully animated, politically minded and full of action and adventure, The Breadwinner is a powerful and pertinent drama about the oppression of women and the power of storytelling. Cartoon Saloon are on a roll.