The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner is a beautifully crafted animated drama by the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon. The Oscar nominated feature directed by Nora Twomey is based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling children’s novel with the same title.

The film is set in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where radical Islamic laws prevail that severely restrict the freedom of girls and women. For example, they are not allowed to leave the house alone and don’t receive any education above the age of eight. This also means that life for Parvana is anything but happy go lucky. The 11 year old girl lives with her impoverished family in Kabul. When her father is arrested as an alleged “enemy of Islam”, Parvana, her mother, her older sister and her little brother face existential challenges. In order to buy food on the market and to make a little bit of money for her family by offering services such as translations or letter writing, the girl camouflages herself with a short hairstyle and appropriate clothing as a boy. During the day Parvana does odd jobs with an equally disguised friend, in the evening she escapes the bitter reality by telling her brother fairy tales about a boy who fights against an elephant king in the Hindukush Mountains. However, her desire to visit her father in prison seems to be unattainable…

Director Nora Twomey stages the Taliban dictatorship as a horror scenario, depicting also physical violence which culminates in some tense moments. The pastel and earth-coloured images are full of dust and haze, the grey facades and the melancholy score by Mychael and Jeff Danna create a sense of being locked-in. In contrast, things become more vivid and colourful in the fairy tale that Parvana tells her brother. Carefully told, The Breadwinner is a heart-warming portrayal of the oppressive discrimination against Afghan girls and women by the Taliban.

Dreamworks Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro

I had an incredible experience traveling through Brazil over the summer, and beyond the beaches and jungles and city life I went to a few museums. While in Rio I went to an exhibition at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil on animation organised by Dreamworks Studios. The exhibition showcased a lot of behind the scenes development sketches, models, illustrations and more from all the films Dreamworks has produced.

There were the line tests from films being played on projectors that emphasised the expressiveness of the animation. There were character design sketches on the wall, many of which were diverse and hilarious iterations of now familiar characters. There were the live action videos that compared film footage from the same shots. There were finely cast models of the characters and sets from the film. This is something that is more prevalent with 3D animation. They had videos of directors pitching shots in the story room which was very fun to see as the directors made noise and gestures acting out the scene. There were also the beautifully rendered backgrounds and set props. There was text explaining inspirations for various films, for example how Mark Rothko’s work inspired the look of the film Madagascar (2005). There were interactive elements like an animation workshop with rows of Cintiqs or a screen that allowed you to change character expressions or do colour grading.

 

The exhibition was great for getting people interested in animation and reminded me of the quality of work I hope to create some day. A tour through the 150 years of the art of giving movement to drawings and objects, making real the unimaginable.