Offside - A Simple Film About A Global Problem

                        A Women/girl have got a ticket to the World Cup qualifying match and stadium guards deny her to enter. Why? Because, the one who got the ticket is a female. Iranian Women are not allowed in soccer stadiums, theoretically for their own protection from such unguarded male behavior as cursing. 

                      Jafar Panahi's Offside is shocking in its revelation of the legal oppression of women in Iran. This movie, about girls trying to sneak into a big game between Iran and Bahrain, is also hugely funny. Bahrain played against Iran in a qualifying match for soccer's World Cup in a packed stadium in Tehran, 2006. And in a sequestered corner — out of sight of the crowd — was a film crew. The crew captured less about the game than about the fans, including some who weren't supposed to be there at all.

       On the day of a big match to determine whether Iran's team goes to the 2006 World Cup, minibuses and vans fill the streets with male fans chanting and waving arms and banners out their windows. A middle-aged man is desperately seeking his daughter in this crowd. His daughter has told her friends that she was going to the stadium, despite the law that says women cannot attend a soccer game. The girl gets past the stadium gates, ducking past the security guards doing body checks. 

             She is soon caught by a soldier and taken to a holding pen on the upper levels of the stadium, where the sounds of the game can be heard. In a short period, there are six other young women, one girl with a foul tongue, another cleverly dressed in an army officer's uniform. All of them are eager and knowledgeable soccer fans. 

            The rural soldiers shout at their prisoners and are not happy with their assignment. They would much happy at home relaxing or looking after their sheep. Eventually, one soldier agrees to provide commentary on the game as he sees it through a hole in the wall.

                Director Jafar Panahi is a self-contradictory populist. He is famous for making crowd-pleasing art movies, often set in the midst of life—the urban crowd is one of his subjects—and is a virtuoso director of (non) actors. On the other hand, he is the most frequently banned film-maker in Iran. Like his previous movies, The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold, Panahi is blatantly metaphoric and powerfully concrete, deceptively simple and highly sophisticated in its formal intelligence. Panahi shot the movie in documentary style, changing his name and concealing the plot of his film to get his crew into a real stadium.

                The amateur cast is uniformly excellent and completely believable. The movie’s final scenes, showcasing a wild post-game party in the streets, was also filmed that day. All the people you see are genuine soccer fans giving genuine reactions to a genuine event.  The movie unfolds in real time, from the start to the end of the match, and there’s not one moment that doesn’t feel like part of that day. Panahi's excellent long breathtaking shots makes this thing possible. This grants him a room to play with the characters and their interactions. 

               Panahi is baffled at his society's determination to protect women's honor whether they want it protected or not. At the same time, he is not mocking anyone, including the men. There comes a finest and priceless moment, when a soldiers escorts one of the prisoner to the men's toilet. The young soldier orders that she must wear a poster over her face (so she doesn’t read the vulgar graffiti on the stall doors), and he struggles to keep men out of their own restroom (there are obviously no ladies’ rooms in the stadium). Joyfully, the trip to the restroom gets her very close to the soccer field — though neither she, nor the camera, is allowed to look at it. 

              Off-side is as sharp as it is funny. Not one of these people believes in the arbitrary system of authority that has brought them together. They'd all rather be privileged to go inside the stadium walls, cheering their purest symbol of national pride. Offside doesn't stop with cultural criticism. It also explores how the sports unites people. After Iran's victory, the worn-out policeman, the angry girls, and the adolescent boy  suddenly become one with each other and with all the fans in the streets. Here the director is not just presenting the fans reaction to Iran's victory. He is indicating us that in a war-torn world, the joy can bring those in conflict together for a mystical moment of celebration.  

                Part sports movie and part women's movie, Offside, is a biting satire on the sort of bureaucratic nonsense to which all of us can relate. 


Offside - IMDb 


Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

I vaguely remember having seen this film in one of the foreign channels on TV. Neverhteless will watch it again now :) Good one

Jerly said...

wow, u really bring us to appreciate films we might have never noticed. Great job here

Anonymous said...

Seriously, WOW!

This is not the usual wow that ppl exult on seeing random stuff but the "WoW" like my granny says on seeing something very good.

Thanks a lot for letting us know about this movie.

Thanks a looooot

Puru@ShadowsGalore said...

This is one of those pathbreaking Cinema which makes a difference. I started appreciating the Iranian cinema with this film .. thanks for the great review :)

ArjunaUbacha said...

This seems to be a must watach movie. Amazing amount of oppression goes on in various countries. Unless people are aware, they cannot fight for their rights.

Arun Kumar said...

@Haricharan, Thank you.

@Jerly, Thanks for the comment. Keep visiting.

Arun Kumar said...

@Divenita, Thank you very much for following up the blog, and do watch the movie.

@Puru, Thank you. Iranians always make a different and revolutionary films with a small budget.

@Indiawilds, Yeah, it's a must watch movie for any movie-lover. Keep visiting.