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Faking an appearance

Animated film shows life changing for a young girl when her father is wrongfully arrested, writes Sarah Olowofoyeku

Violence is commonplace towards anyone who objects

PICTURE the scene. Living under the brutal Taliban regime, Parvana and her family struggle to survive each day in their small one-room home in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is an unusual backdrop for an animated feature film, but it is the setting of The Breadwinner, released in cinemas yesterday (Friday 25 May).

While Parvana’s mother and older sister stay at home, looking after her baby brother, she goes out with her father and helps him try to make a living. Together they sell the family’s few valuable items in the market square and offer to read or write letters for people.

Under Taliban rule, women are not allowed out in public without a male relative. Violence is commonplace towards anyone who objects or does not adhere to the law.

Parvana’s family have just enough to live on, but life isn’t easy. Her father lost his teaching job and, as girls are not allowed to be educated, she and her sister cannot attend school.

Things take a turn for the worse when a member of the Taliban learns that Parvana’s father possesses forbidden books and has been teaching women with them. He is arrested.

Desperate to get him back, Parvana and her mother set out to submit a plea for his release. But they are caught and questioned for being outside without a man and ordered to go home. Parvana’s mother insists that she needs to find her husband, but there is no mercy. She is beaten and left on the street.

With no man in the home, the family are helpless. Women cannot go out on their own to buy food from the market, let alone earn any money, and their food supplies are running out.

So Parvana does what she feels she must. She cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy. The freedom she experiences is unparalleled. She makes a new friend at the market – another girl who has dressed up as a boy – who tells her: ‘When you’re a boy, you can go anywhere you like!’

But with the new freedom comes more responsibility. Parvana takes on the role of breadwinner.

She is at risk of being discovered, but is determined to maintain her new appearance until she is able to rescue her father from prison.

Drastic times call for drastic measures and humans have repeatedly been in need of saving – whether from troubles caused by themselves or others.

Someone else who went to great lengths and changed their circumstances to carry out a rescue mission was Jesus. But, says the Bible, rather than take on a position of privilege, Jesus ‘gave up his place with God and made himself nothing’ (Philippians 2:7 New Century Version). He became a human so that he could make the ultimate sacrifice by bearing the punishment for all of humanity’s wrongs by dying on a cross.

But the story does not end there. Jesus was raised to life, which meant that death was conquered for ever. Because of the action Jesus took, we can know freedom from punishment, forgiveness for all our mistakes and the hope of eternal life.

If we accept what Jesus has done, life can change for us.

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