The Breadwinner Parent Guide
The author and filmmaker alike have worked hard to depict the tough issues experienced by the characters in a way that is still accessible to teen and adult viewers.
Parent Movie Review
Life can be tough for anyone, but it is especially so for an eleven-year-old girl living under Taliban rule in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In many respects Parvana, (voice of Saara Chaudry,) is an ordinary kid. She argues with her bossy older sister (voice of Shaista Latif), dotes on her adorable baby brother, and thrives under the care of her loving mother and father (voices of Laara Sadiq and Ali Badshah). Yet it becomes apparent early in the film that Parvana’s childhood is under attack.
As a girl, she faces constant harassment from local Taliban thugs who, armed with guns and a brutal ideology, are steadily restricting the freedom of women in the country. The family’s sole protection and support is Parvana’s father, who quietly educates his children (even the girls) and brightens their lives with vivid storytelling. His defence of his daughters’ rights however, doesn’t go unnoticed. And Parvana’s life is upended when her father is suddenly arrested and thrown in prison.
Under strict Taliban law, the three women of the household can’t leave their home without a male guardian to accompany them—and the only remaining male member of the family is a toddler. As females, that means they can’t even draw water from the well by themselves, let alone buy food or earn a living. As supplies quickly dwindle, Parvana is forced to make a terrible choice. To avoid starvation, she disguises herself as a boy and becomes the breadwinner, taking odd jobs to provide for her mother and siblings.
There’s a lot at stake. Parvana’s world is saturated with daily violence. The landscape is scarred by war, and people live in fear of remaining landmines and explosives. Women, including her own mother, are beaten in the streets. Desperate families sell their daughters into child marriages, and everyone toils under the constant watch of the Taliban. Fortunately, Parvana’s school friend Shauzia, (voiced by Soma Chhaya,) is in a similar plight and helps Parvana adapt. Their simple friendship is a stark and moving contrast to the cruelty of the society in which they live.
By now it’s probably apparent that this film is not a typical “children’s” animation. It is based on a novel by Deborah Ellis, that was inspired by the true-life experiences of Afghan refugees. Because the movie stays loyal to the source material, the subject matter is heavy and there are no simple solutions to the problems Parvana contends with.
Still, author and filmmaker alike have worked hard to make these tough issues accessible and appropriate for middle school audiences. Violent events are portrayed off screen, and although they include sound effects and depictions of resulting injuries, they avoid being explicit. Other troubling content, like women and children being threatened, families being separated, and soldiers enforcing their will at gun point, are treated with the seriousness they deserve. The exquisite animation style and soundtrack create an immersive experience that respectfully and poignantly offers a glimpse into the tragic daily life of millions of people around the world.
And this is the true strength of production, which is both beautiful and heartrending. Parvana, her parents, and siblings may be fictional characters, but they are easily relatable—a family, like any other family. Their experiences of loss, displacement, intimidation and, more importantly, resilience, are shared by real people who are so overwhelming in numbers that television and newspapers often neglect their individual stories. As a tool for teaching empathy, especially to older children, The Breadwinner excels. And as warfare and political upheaval continue to devastate the lives of ordinary men, women and children, that empathy is needed more than ever. This extraordinary film is a fitting tribute to the people we often forget, and an invitation to understand, discuss, and work towards improving the situation of our fellow human beings.Directed by Nora Twomey. Starring Saara Chaudry, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release November 17, 2017. Updated December 18, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Breadwinner rated PG-13? The Breadwinner is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material including some violent images
Beyond the movie ratings: What Parents need to know about…
Violence: Characters are chased and shouted at. Families are forcibly separated. Women are beaten in front of children. Both men and women are intimidated and threatened with weapons. Characters are treated with weapons, gunshots are heard, and gunshot wounds are shown. Characters hit, punch and whip one another: scrapes, bruises and bloody noses are depicted. A character is injured with a knife, blood is shown. Characters abuse and misuse others, as well as betray them. Deaths are mentioned. Bullying occurs. Although the depictions are not detailed or graphic, they are still emotionally disturbing.
Sexual Content: Child marriages are implied and discussed.
Language: Sibling name calling and arguing occur.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated December 18, 2017
More parents' guide for The Breadwinner after the break...
The Breadwinner Parents' Guide
How do Parvana's choices reflect her love for her family? What are some ways you can show appreciation or support to your family members?
What would you do if you were in Parvana’s situation? What risks do the others take (like her father, her mother, her older sister and her friend)? Do you think you would ever be able to consider doing some of the things they are forced to do to survive?
Shauzia's friendship and advice make it possible for Parvana to earn money. How has friendship helped you with the challenges you face? How can you offer the same kind of help to your friends?
Parvana's family must deal with separation, loss and fear. Many immigrants and refugees have had similar experiences. Why is it important to try to understand how they feel? What could you do to help people who are new to your school, community, or country?
News About "The Breadwinner"
Deborah Ellis authored The Breadwinner, the award winning children's novel that was the inspiration for this movie.
Although Ellis's book is a work of fiction, she did base her writing on stories of real people living under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Learn more about the Taliban.
He Named Me Malala is a documentary (based on the biography I Am Malala) about a real young girl who lived under Taliban rule in Pakistan. An activist for the education rights of girls, Malala Yousafzai received world recognition after she was shot by Taliban militants. She was only 14-years-old at the time.
The Breadwinner animation is produced by serval people including actress Angelina Jolie (Kung Fu Panda, Maleficent and Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea). Nora Twomey, who directed The Breadwinner has also worked with Moore on several of his past projects.