Only in today’s world could a story set in Afghanistan come to fruition through the collaboration of studios in Ireland, Canada, and Luxembourg…and the participation of an American named Angelina Jolie. The Breadwinner is both credible and moving because these dedicated storytellers relied on cultural advisors for authenticity and knew that the characters and their plight would have universal appeal.

If you’ve seen such animated features as The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea you’ve experienced the exceptional work of Cartoon Saloon, a studio based in Kilkenny, Ireland. Breadwinner director Nora Twomey served as co-director on Kells and head of story on Song of the Sea. She approached the adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ best-selling young-adult book The Breadwinner with screenwriter Anita Doron and a talented team of designers. Their goal was to show how one brave girl named Parvana stood up to the violent and repressive measures of the Taliban circa 2001 in Kabul. Parvana’s father has been wrongly imprisoned but it seems there is little she can do. Women are not allowed on the streets of Kabul so she risks her life just setting foot outside to bring water from the village well. There is only one solution: she must disguise herself as a boy in order to provide for her family and try to free her father from captivity.

The design of those characters is pleasing to the eye while the settings are believably realistic. Our heroine, Parvana, inherits her father’s gift for storytelling, and when the narrative reverts to an ancient fable she recounts,  Twomey effortlessly transitions to cut-out animation.

American families deserve to see this excellent film. The Breadwinner is a visually striking feature with a relatable young heroine; it is as fresh and relevant as any movie of 2017. This is the latest import brought to these shores by the distributor called GKids. Many animation experts feel that it is a likely (and worthy) Oscar contender; I happily add my voice to that chorus.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024