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TIFF: "The Breadwinner" is a visual stunner

Our ongoing adventures at TIFF

 One of the most exciting animation houses in the world is Ireland's Cartoon Saloon. In its early years its largely been a showcase for co-founder Tomm Moore who made Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea (both deservedly Oscar nominated). Now Nora Twomey, also a co-founder, steps into the director's chair for their third feature, another visual stunner. (If you haven't seen their films yet get to it. They're doing the consistently best non-Pixar derivative animation on earth now that Studio Ghibli has slowed way down.)

This time we depart Ireland for an adaptation of The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis's bestseller about an Afghani girl who disguises herself as a boy to provide for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban. Without a male relative to escort them around the city they're trapped in their home with no way to earn money or go shopping...

The central story, filled with unjust imprisonment and gender based oppression (all the women dream of better lives with no way to work towards them) is naturally very sad. Parvana fights the sadness and comforts her family and friends with the retelling of a famous myth about a brave boy battling an Elephant King.

a family dinner before the Taliban takes the loving father away

Parvana fights the sadness and comforts her family and friends with the retelling of a famous myth about a brave boy battling an Elephant King. Though this story within the story makes The Breadwinner's pacing awkward at best and sometimes crowds out fuller potential characterizations of Parvana's family, it's crucial in varying up the film's tone and the repetitiveness of their desperate situation. The comically inspired stylized cut-out animation of the story sequences, provide much needed levity and escape from the dangerous real story for both the audience and Parvana's family.

All in all The Breadwinner, is a well meaning and moving film. It was produced by a team that includes Angelina Jolie and is wonderfully voiced by Middle Eastern actors rather than white American movie stars. Incidentally it might well be the perfect film for progressive parents to show to their children as a gateway to human rights discussions, religious extremism in politics, and the endless versatility of animated cinema. Start them with this one and move on to Persepolis when they're a little older to continue the conversation.

Finally this desert fable is another necessary reminder that animation is a medium rather than a genre. It's capable of generating myriad kinds of wonder and has the ability to tell any kind of story. There's a whole new world out there beyond adventure comedies and princess musicals. If only family audiences would be willing to explore it.

the story within the story

GradeB+ /B
Oscar Chances: It's got a good shot at a Best Animated Feature nomination IF the new rules, which have expanded the voting to include non animation trained professionals, don't tilt the voting too far in favor of Disney/Pixar and their many mainstream imitators. The score by Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna could also be of interest. 

Reviews of Other Animated Oscar Contenders:
In this Corner of the World (Japan) reviewed by Tim Brayton 
The Big Bad Fox (France) reviewed by Tim Brayton
Coco (US) reviewed by Jorge Molina
The Girl Without Hands (France) reviewed by Tim Brayton
The Emoji Movie (US) reviewed by Sean Donovan
The Boss Baby (US) reviewed by Nathaniel R
Loving Vincent (UK/Poland) reviewed by Tim Brayton
Bird Boy: The Forgotten Children (Spain) reviewed by Tim Brayton

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Reader Comments (3)

I think this gets nominated. There hasn't been a single animated movie released this year that screams for a nomination, which tends to help artier films like this.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCash

"There hasn't been a single animated movie released this year that screams for a nomination"

Not true - "The Girl Without Hands".

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I could see this get a nomination for Best Animated Feature, but I would watch out for The Girl Without Hands seeing how the Academy now a days nominates GKIDS films with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Also I think it would be time to change your predictions for Best Animated Feature if also you are going to watch Captain Underpants and The Lego Batman Movie seeing how those films have got good reviews this year. Also I think you want to take out Ferdinand, Loving Vincent and Despicable Me 3 cause #1 Ferdinand is a Blue Sky film and that company's feature films are so not famous with the Academy unless Blue Sky makes it good. #2 Despicable Me 3 was mostly meh and has a Rotten Tomatoes score low than Captain Underpants, also Captain Underpants I heard was the better summer animated movie of 2017 than Despicable Me 3 and (uggh) Cars Finally #3 Loving Vincent while it may be a good reviewed animated film may not get Oscar attention cause it's not a GKIDS film. Also make sure to keep an eye on Mary and the Witch's Flower from the Academy Award nominated filmmakers of When Marine Was There and I just hope the new voters for the nomination for Best Animated Feature will pick the right good animated movies for the 90th Academy Awards.

September 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Hartsell

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