Dir: Nora Twomey
Starring: Saara Chaudry, Som Chaudry, Noorin Gulamgus, Laara Sadiq, Ali Badshah, Shaista Latif, Kanza Feris & Kawa Ada.
93mins | Animation, Drama, Storytelling | 12a
Some people are still reeling from the fact that Boss Baby had an Oscar nomination this year. Whilst this throwaway nom is absurd in and of itself, another honoured animation in the category is a subtle and sublime, hand-drawn work that easily turns heads.
After the break out hits The Secret of the Bells and Song of the Sea, Cartoon Saloon has wowed us with stunning Irish inspired works of wonder (both of which I firmly recommend you check out). Here is s shocking departure, though all the more valid when considering the subject matter. No one would ever accuse these artists of appropriation, as even Angelina Jolie helped fund this film.
There are stories of cross-dressing women in many cultures. We have seen the story of Hua Mulan in who goes off to fight China and even Wales has the story of Ellen Gethin, who dresses as an archer to honour her brother’s killing. With a story based on the book by Deborah Ellis, here lies a slice of Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Parvana is our young heroine, turned hero as she makes the choice to turn male (if only in a trouser role) if only to save her family from hunger and misery. Her father is taken away to prison, though is she able to get him back?
The animation is superb, a visual feast that has two major components. Most of the film is the orange/brown, dusty colours of Kabul that are a blazing sight to behold, as we journey through markets, alleyways and plazas. The second part is the storytelling that Parvana uses to soothe her younger brother, kindly given to her through her academic father. These stories help mirror her own journey as they play out with a puppet theatricality. I found Parvana and her decisions much more interesting then the storytelling, which is of worth but could only ever play second fiddle to the main set piece (amazing animation and all).
There are some ravishing moments that lie within. Parvana’s eyes are an exquisite emerald green, the attention grabber whenever they are on screen. The easily expressed emotions are also a marvel, as we discover the subtly of a few drawn lines and how they can emote in profound ways. There are some intense parts which would easily upset younger children, the proof that this work is not afraid to shy away from some awful themes. The film makes the struggle all the more rousing as we root for Parvana, in the hope that she can once again see her father and bring him home to the family.
Who knew this underrated work of animation would be a sure-fire critical hit?
Great storytelling & heartbreaking realities.
Film still from screendaily.com