Offside Jafar Panahi

Offside Jafar Panahi
At once a critique against an oppressive regime and a celebration of humanity, Offside is a small, bittersweet gem of a movie about Iranian citizens at odds with their country’s flawed ethos yet maintain an overriding sense of nationalism. While simply calling the film "feminist” is dismissive — it is much more than that — the girls of Offside have an even more basic and immediate goal in mind. Not so much feminists as they are diehard soccer fans, the Tehrani misfits disguise themselves as boys in order to sneak a peak at their nation’s team in a qualifying game against Bahrain (one that will decide Iran’s entry into the World Cup). Since women are restricted from entering the stadium, the girls are captured and rounded up into a makeshift cage guarded by boy soldiers who would rather be doing something else. It’s a battle of the sexes from here, where rounds of verbal sparring make for a light-hearted comedy with anxious undertones and imbedded social commentary. The beauty of Offside is that it doesn’t point a finger at any of its characters no matter where they stand. The soldiers who imprison the girls have no ideological purpose and can barely explain their country’s reasoning. They have strict orders that must be followed but would rather the girls be allowed to watch the game, since it would save them the trouble of being on guard. In a sense, they are all prisoners and soldiers — a notion that is visualised by one female prisoner in a soldier’s uniform — confined by ancient rules they are struggling to free themselves from. In an interview filmed at last year’s Toronto International Film Fest (sadly the DVD’s sole special feature), Panahi suggests the conflicted nature of nationalism, an idea he toys with in the film’s utopian finale, where a street party unites the sexes. The national anthem is trumpeted in the background as the men and women — both prisoners and soldiers alike — celebrate their country together, all the while defying it by doing so. (Mongrel Media)