During the last decade we have gained an insight into daily life in Muslim countries through cartoons and animated movies like Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical Persepolis, a graphic novel that was subsequently adapted for the screen in 2007 depicting a young girl’s adolescence in Iran, and the successful graphic novel The Arab of the Future, again an autobiographical coming-of-age story set in Gaddafi and Assad’s dictatorships.
The International Festival of Animated Films or Anifilm, held every year in the Czech town of Trebon, recently screened two newcomers in the genre: last year’s Oscar-nominated children’s movie The Breadwinner by Nora Twomey and Tehran Taboo, an animated movie for adults by Ali Soozandeh. Both films received much attention during last year’s Cannes film festival and were lavishly praised in Variety.
These are animated movies of high quality both in terms of technical skill and content. Both films share a common trait in that the directors have chosen to tell dark stories about repression from the perspective of children. This provides us with a unique approach to – and empathy with – the main characters. Their dreams and yearnings resemble our own, though the circumstances the characters find themselves in are incomprehensible.
A unique aspect about coming-of-age stories told from the perspective of children is that the narrative voice seems both more honest and humorous. We regard the actions of the adults and can perceive their consequences but are still infected by a childlike belief that everything will turn out all right in the end.
The Breadwinner is based on a children’s book with the same name by the Canadian author Deborah Ellis, who spent several months in a refugee camp interviewing Afghan girls and women as part of her research. This formed the basis for the book. The story plays out in present-day Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.
«The Breadwinner is an excellent introduction to understanding the situation in Afghanistan.»
An 11-year-old girl, Parvana, …
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