Wednesday, June 14, 2006

OFFSIDE - gentle but effective Iranian comedy

OFFSIDE is a small but beautifully formed gentle comedy from Iran. The movie focuses on the day when Iran beat Bahrain in Teheran, thus qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. The bite to the comedy comes from the fact that the movie follows a handful of young female fans. The problem is that in Iran in it is forbidden for women to go to football matches. With all that swearing and all those men, it just wouldn't be seemly! The great thing about the movie is that it never descends into polemic, despite the obvious injustice of the rule and the massive stakes. One girl - a repeat offender who has the balls to impersonate an Irani solider and sit in the VIP area - risks imprisonment. She jokes that if she had worn an officer's uniform she would have been executed. We are not entirely sure if she is joking. The other great thing about the movie is that it does not demonise men. Random guys who twig to the girls' plans try to help them out. Even the soldiers who sequester them seem more concerned with their safety than oppressive. One provides a ham-fisted commentary for them. I left the theatre with a warm feeling, a renewed sense of how lucky I was to be able to watch as much footie as I liked, and a profound admiration for director, Jafar Panahi. What an outstanding decision to argue his case simply by showing the absurdity of the Iranian set-up. I strongly recommend this film.

OFFSIDE showed at Berlin 2006 where it won the Grand Jury Prize and is on release in Austria and the UK. It hits Germany on June 29th 2006 and France on December 6th 2006.

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