Islamic custom prohibits Iranian women attending any kind of public sports event. That right is for men and men only. However, when you are a woman AND a huge soccer fan you are willing to risk arrest for the chance to see Iran beat Bahrain and go on to the World Cup in “Offside.”
Robin - The Movie:
We did not get the chance to see this Jafar Panahi film (“The Circle,” “The White Balloon”) during its all too brief release at theaters so we jumped at the chance to review what looked to be a charming, feel-good femme sports film and, I am very glad to report, it is.
The story is simple: six plucky young women separately try to gain entrance to the all-important soccer match between Iran and Bahrain. One by one, the authorities catch them and place them in a holding pen just outside an entrance into the stadium. Shot with an as-it-happens POV, Panahi introduces each of these avid fans with a descriptor rather than a name – First Girl (Sima Mobarak-Shahi), Smoking Girl (Shayesteh Irani), Soccer Girl (Ayda Sadeqi), Girl with tchador (Golnaz Farmani), Female Soldier (Mahnaz Zabihi) and Young Girl (Nazanin Sediq-zadeh). Each young woman’s strong individual personality and genuine love for the game make the six a pleasure to watch as they vicariously “see” the game through the eyes of the soldiers guarding them.
The girls are not the sole draw for the viewer, though. The soldiers guarding them also have personality as they treat the girls for what they really are – penultimate soccer fans – and keep them posted with what is happening on the pitch. The head soldier, sympathetic to the girls’ plight but unable to do anything about it except keep them in the holding pen, must bear their ire as he keeps them from watching the game. It is all done with humor and lightness as the women form a bond amongst themselves and with their captors.
If you like to see an inspirational sports film, with an amusing spin on the genre, then “Offside” is well worth the watch. Its light, positive nature and good humor make it fly by. I give it a B.
The DVD release of “Offside” does not come with much by way of additional material. The only extra is an extended interview with writer/director Jafar Panahi that gives good insight about Iran’s slowly changing society that, through technology like satellite television, is creating a new breed of soccer fan, the women, that love the game every bit as much as men. The bonus interview is extensive but, after a while, begins to drone on. The addition of a theatrical trailer or, even better, a voiceover narration by the director would be welcomed. I give the “Offside” DVD release a B.Laura - The DVD:
Besides the delightful presentation of a terrific film which shows a surprising empathy between the sexes in today's Iran, at least where sports fanaticism is concerned, the DVD offers the usual features of scene selection and subtitles but the only special feature is an interview with director Jafar Panahi. The good news is that it is an extensive, engrossing talk with a highly articulate, amusing and informative director. Panahi tells the funny personal anecdote which gave him for the basis of his film, talks about how the average Iranian no longer believes women need be shielded from male soccer fans in stadiums and expresses his frustration that his film was banned in his home country after he'd announced its release date to be two weeks
before the World Cup games (it went on to become a huge hit via bootlegged CDs). The director also describes his film as 'a bitter comedy where we laugh but are sad about what's going on.' As Moliere said 'The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.' B+
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