offside

June 4, 2008

Last night’s film was one that’s also been on my list for a while. I went through a phase of Iranian films (not deliberately, it just worked out that way), and while Offside had a little of the same feel (maybe due to the hand held camera) the engaging plot pulled you right along, not quite the slow, contemplative shots of Kiarostami.

Jafar Panahi made The White Balloon year ago, but Offside was much more challenging, both in subject matter and the logistics of filming. It’s about Iranian girl football fans who, disallowed from watching football matches at the stadium, find inventive ways to sneak into the stadium. Some invariably get caught, and as in this film, are held in a little pen, until after they match when they will be shipped off to the Moral Police.

The balance of power the situation implies isn’t borne out by the film, where some of the girls are quick, confident, urban and mouthy in comparison to the conscripts who have been assigned to guard them, and would much rather be home in their villages tending to their fields, old mothers and animals. The latter find themselves challenged by the girls, who even get one of the soldiers to give a running commentary of the game through the fence. A particularly vexed soldier asks at one point, “What’s wrong with you people from Tehran, why don’t you understand that men and women are different?!”

Some extra factlets: the film was actually shot live during the Iran v Bahrain qualifying match for the 2006 World Cup, though I can’t imagine how! Panahi also asked the girls to come up with their own disguises, so what we see in the film are the girls’ own efforts (of varying success). Needless to say, the film is banned in Iran, though I am not sure how much that says about whether or not people there have seen it. Short and sweet at 87 minutes, the film says a lot about Iran today, politically and socially.

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