The Bread Winner

I took Thorin to the film The Bread Winner . I honestly thought it was a kid friendly albeit serious film. In watching it we discovered it was about an 11 year-old Afghani girl (the same age as Thorin), Parvana, living under the Taliban rule in 2001. First her father is taken away to prison for defending her right to accompany him to the market place. Left at home are her mother, older sister and little brother. Parvana dresses as a boy so she can leave the house to work in order to support her family. What follows is heartbreaking and horrifying.



So, maybe you’re thinking, “This mother will go to any length to not take her kid to Wonder.” Seriously, Wonder seems sentimental and trite based solely on the trailer alone. When I told my friend Kelly after we went she offered, “Isn’t this the time of year there are holiday films?” Oh, how we laughed.

I saw Greta Gerwig– my favorite actor, director, writer and human– interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter — she said as a child she thought films were created by gods. Brief aside: FUCK YOU TWICE GOLDEN GLOBES for not nominating her for best director! But then again you nominated The Bread Winner. You must like your women subservient and fearful. Sad. And relevant. Art and Life now seems to be about the contradictions.

I do believe films are god-like. Stories help us make sense of life. That is a big part of The Bread Winner.

Thorin has had the movie goer’s experience which is different than the film goer’s experience. The movie goer’s experience is about the yes and the connection and the next, please! The film goer experience is about the friction, the unease, the uncomfortable sensation and defeat. The Bread Winner is didactic, to be sure, but it also shows what an oppressive state looks like. We are still the fortunate son, America. We have far to go to be this desolate. The Bread Winner shows what happens to human beings who want to learn to read and understand– and become.

We went on a snowy day in Portland. A day home schooler’s, retirees and  young people in love go to films. An older heterosexual couple behind us in line asked what movie we were going to, “The Bread Winner, about the Taliban, ” I answered.

The women looked at Thorin and said, “That sounds important.”

I tried to explain why we were there, “It has a happy ending?” It does and doesn’t.

She started to say more. Her husband gently touched her arm, “Not now, yes?” They fell behind us.

Parvana weaves a parallel story for her young brother of a prince who confronts the Elephant King. Thorin rose in his seat to exclaim, “Yes!” upon a uncertain victory. As an audience member he and I needed this. Hope is paramount. It’s why we keep moving forward, yes?

And– in further defense of my decision– I read beforehand that Common Sense rated it  for 11+. What I didn’t see until after the film– when I was frantically searching for information– was that was based on 3 reviews. One of which offered the following sober advice from a 13 year old : “Straight down awful movie. This was the worst 2017 movie yet! Don’t see it.”

But, I’m glad we saw it. And so was Thorin. He said, “This is sad. Father in jail. Bad men with guns. Girl is boy. Beat mom.”

The pain and disharmony in this film is in some superficial way on par with a Disney film where a parent is dead or dies. Except in this film it shows that circumstance is a true tragedy and not an opportunity to move the story along without parental interference. It is a horrible thing for children to be separated from their parents. Parvana is a hero and she inspires others. The film ends on a sad, anxious and messy note.

I explained to Thorin afterwards that women in some countries cannot go outside their homes without a man and even then it is scary. He understood that and was confused. So am I.


This entry was posted in Down syndrome by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at CNN, Psychology Today online, The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: Email:

2 thoughts on “The Bread Winner

  1. I read the book several years ago and really enjoyed it. I am sad to hear the movie is disappointing! Thanks for telling about your experience. I’ll make sure my boys (13,11) read the book first!

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