The Breadwinner is an animated film based on the novel of the same name by Deborah Ellis, exploring themes of oppression and bereavement through the story of a young girl living in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. Parvana, the young protagonist, is forced to assume the identity of a young boy in order to provide food for her family after her father is forcibly taken from their family home by the Taliban.
The film arrived at the BBFC for classification in September 2017, without a category request. BBFC Compliance Officers noted moderate threat and violence as the key issues defining its 12A classification.
As the protagonist is forced to hide her female identity, the threat of detection is underlined by a sequence in which she witnesses men beating a frightened, pleading woman who has been caught outside. The actual violence is brief and occurs entirely off-screen, but Parvana is clearly disturbed by what she sees. Later, Parvana and her friend are discovered and chased by a vicious, machine gun-wielding teenager. Just as he corners them, the teenager is pulled away to join the fighting and it is implied that he will not survive. The threat comes to a head in the final scenes when war reaches Kabul. Separated from her family while trying to find her father, Parvana is forced to hide amidst gunfire and bombing. At the same time, her frail mother faces off against a man armed with a knife. She grips the blade, resulting in mild bloody detail.
Parvana is a courageous and optimistic heroine, and there are plenty of lighter moments as she bonds with her family and befriends another young girl who is also disguised as a boy. The stronger scenes are often intercut with fantastical and occasionally comic sequences as Parvana narrates a story of a brave boy negotiating with a red-eyed elephant king in order to save his village.
BBFC Compliance Officers felt that the intensity of the scenes of knife and gun threat exceeded allowances with the BBFC Classification Guidelines at PG. However, the lack of detail, the stylised animation and the fact that the scenes occur within a framework of optimism and faith in humanity allowed the film to sit comfortably at the 12A level. Detailed BBFCinsight for the film can be read here.
The BBFC Education team selected The Breadwinner as a film for discussion at the 2018 Into Film Festival.