08 October 2012

Movie review: Offside

Offside, 2006. Directed by Jafar Panahi.

Iranian director Panahi is rather controversial at home, where he is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” and is banned for making movies for twenty years.

Offside is a movie about women living in Tehran who want to watch the Iranian national team play Bahrain in the final match of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers in mid-2005. Women aren't allowed to go to stadiums, because there are men there, and these men may swear or curse in manners that will harm women's delicate sensibilities.

It starts with one girl, wearing a ball cap, loose fitting clothing, and an Iranian flag around her shoulders like a scarf, riding a bus to Azadi Stadium. She buys a ticket from a scalper and joins the queue to get in, where she is pulled aside and taken to a holding area above the outer rings of the stands, to wait for the Vice Squad to pick them up.

There are other girls and young women there, all of whom just want to watch their national team qualify for the World Cup. The film focuses on them and how they relate to each other and the Army guys guarding them. Several times, they get one of the guards to narrate the action on the pitch.

The tone is comedic, the dark humor you use when the situation you're in is so ludicrous but you can't do anything about it, because, as he says in the interview that's one of the extras on the DVD, all you can do is laugh at the absurdity.

The movie isn't much about soccer (you only see a few moments of the game, and that on a TV screen in the background), but more a social commentary on restrictions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is why the official censors aren't very keen on it.

I recommend this movie, even if you're not a soccer fan. If you are a soccer fan, I highly recommend it.

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