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Review: The Breadwinner

Although the current lineup of Best Animated Feature nominees isn’t nearly as impressive as last year’s, I still took time out of my busy schedule to catch a screening of The Breadwinner at IFC Center. I’m a huge fan of The Secret of the Kells and Song of the Sea, Cartoon Saloon’s previous efforts, and while this latest production lacks a few of the qualities that attracted me to the studio’s work in the first place (particularly its celebration of Irish mythology), I found its grounded tone and distinct cultural flavor immensely enjoyable.

I’m a sucker for folklore, and there’s plenty to savor here: gorgeously stylized depictions of the tumultuous history of the Silk Road and the legends surrounding a brave young farmer’s battle against monstrous jaguars and elephants, as filtered through the point-of-view of a little girl masquerading as a boy to support her family in an oppressive society that regards women as inherently inferior. The courage that she draws from these tales and the lessons they teach (namely that compassion is stronger than any weapon) is a testament to the unparalleled power of storytelling.

My gut tells me that Pixar will end up snagging the big prize, but I’ll be rooting for The Breadwinner; it’s a genuine masterpiece from an immensely talented group of filmmakers.

[Originally written February 16, 2018.]

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