In a land scorched by the searing desert sun, invaded by countless foreign armies, and governed by brutal Taliban forces, there lives a young girl called Parvana (voice of Saara Chaudry). Parvana’s father, like the land itself, bears the scars of war. Outwardly, he appears weak and ravaged but inwardly he is strong and wise, having ensured his daughters were educated as though they were sons.
While trying to sell some items at the marketplace, a chance encounter with a Taliban soldier sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that will change Parvana’s life forever. Having refused to give his young daughter to the soldier in marriage, Parvana’s father (Ali Badshah) is ruthlessly arrested and sent to prison, leaving his wife and 3 children to fend for themselves. In a land where women are not allowed outside except in the company of a male family member, where they cannot buy food, set foot in a shop and constantly risk being beaten or killed simply by their presence in society, things look bleak and hopeless.
With no other choice, Parvana cuts her hair, dons the clothes of her dead brother and sets out as a boy to find work in order to feed her family. She is not the only one who has had to do this and soon encounters her old friend, Shauzia (Soma Chhaya), who is also pretending to be a boy in order to survive.
Fearing for her daughter’s life each time she leaves the house, Parvana’s mother, Fattema (Laara Sadiq), attempts to arrange a marriage for Parvana’s older sister, Soraya (Shaista Latif). Meanwhile, Parvana is determined to find her father and help him come back home.
With the country on the brink of war and rapidly descending into chaos, this proves far more difficult than she could ever have imagined. Will Parvana find her father before it’s too late? When her family is separated, will they find their way back home and will there be a home to return to?
War; gender inequality and male domination; religious fanaticism; false imprisonment; foreign invasion; arranged marriage; death; family separation
The Breadwinner has some violence. For example:
- A brief, historical montage shows scenes from Afghanistan’s past, including images of war and invasions, with the shadows of children running across the foreground.
- A Taliban soldier threatens Parvana’s father, telling him that he can have him killed.
- Parvana’s father is shown with only one leg. It is briefly mentioned how he lost it in the war.
- Parvana’s sister grabs her head scarf and yanks it off as the 2 girls have an argument.
- Taliban soldiers barge into Parvana’s house to arrest her father, saying that he has forbidden books and is using them to teach women to read. Parvana’s mother is violently shoved to the ground while her husband is dragged away.
- Parvana’s mother asks a stranger if he has seen her husband. She shows him a photo and he rips it apart, tossing the pieces aside and yelling that photos are forbidden. He then proceeds to beat her relentlessly with a stick. She is shown bruised and battered from head to toe, including a black eye, scrapes and blood on her face, and bruises and cuts on her feet. It takes quite some time for her injuries to fade.
- When she ventures out to get water, a boy warns Parvana that the soldiers are coming. He is chased by the men and both he and Parvana are clearly terrified by their presence.
- Taliban soldiers chase Parvana through the marketplace.
- Taliban soldiers beat a woman with her children as they are trying to get into the door of their home. The woman tries to explain that there is no man in her home to go to the market but her pleas and explanations fall on deaf ears. The soldiers tell her to stay inside where she belongs.
- Parvana shoves her sister and tells her that she will look for their father.
- A prison guard beats and punches Parvana for asking about her father and then sends her away.
- As Parvana and Shauzia walk home, they come across a tangle of abandoned tanks. They must stay on the road as the area surrounding them is potentially full of landmines.
- Shauzia collapses from the hard physical labour they are doing.
- A Taliban soldier shouts at Parvana and Shauzia. He pins Parvana to the ground and she hits him in the head with a brick when she realises that he recognises her. The girls run away but he shoots at them.
- A man is about to whip Parvana.
- The man who helped arrange Soraya’s marriage threatens Parvana’s family and roughly forces her mother and sister into his car.
- This man later threatens Fattema with a knife. She grabs a stick and sets it on fire in order to fight him off and give Soraya the chance to run.
- A soldier carries Parvana’s father out of his prison cell, telling a guard that he is putting him with the other bodies as he is dead.
- Parvana watches the guard shoot at the man carrying her father.
- Fattema grabs the knife a man is thrusting at her, and grips it by the blade, blood running down her hand and wrist.
- The story of how Parvana’s brother was killed is described. He found a toy in the street and when he picked it up, it exploded.
- The man carrying Parvana’s father is shot badly in the chest and her father is covered in his blood.
The Breadwinner has some sexual references. For example:
- A Taliban soldier asks how old Parvana is, saying that (despite the fact that she is clearly a child) he is just about ready to take a wife.
- Soraya is to be wed to a man she doesn’t know so that her family might survive.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There’s no substance use in The Breadwinner.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in The Breadwinner.
There’s no product placement in The Breadwinner.
The Breadwinner has some coarse language. For example, ‘stupid’ and ‘fool’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Breadwinner is an animated drama depicting the plight of an Afghan family. Based on the book by Deborah Ellis, the film provides lots of topics for discussion. While it is portrayed as a cartoon, the film is fully of heavy, confronting content that is not suitable for younger viewers. For older children and teens it provides an in-depth look at what life is really like for women in Afghanistan.
The main message from The Breadwinner is that despite the fact that some women and girls are given no voice and no rights, they are just as capable and resourceful (if not more so) as their male counterparts.
Values in The Breadwinner that you could reinforce with your children are courage, determination, persistence, the importance of education, hard work and resourcefulness.
The Breadwinner could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of:
- allowing one half of a society to be degraded and disadvantaged
- forbidding girls to leave their homes and not allowing them the opportunity of an education
- arranged marriages and, more specifically, child marriages
- violence against women
- the devastating impact and the horrors of war
- the dangers of religious fanaticism.