OFFSIDE
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Ida Sadeghi, Shayesteh Irani, Sima Mobarak Shahi
(partially hidden), Mahnaz Zabihi, Nazanin Sedighzadeh,
Golanz Farmani in
OFFSIDE

Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics, Inc.
© 2006 CTB Film Company/Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc
When one thinks of contemporary foreign
filmmakers who could be considered directors of
great female roles, one immediately thinks of
someone like Pedro Almodóvar. I would like to
suggest that another person who should be
thought of in the same breath is Jafar Panahi,
the Iranian director whose credits include   
 
THE WHITE BALLOON
and THE CIRCLE. He
confirms this with his latest effort
OFFSIDE, a
slice-of-life drama about a group of young girls
who are soccer fans and who desperately want
to watch Iran play in a qualifying match for the
World Cup.

forbidden to participate in certain events.
Women are allowed to watch televised versions
of the soccer matches, but cannot attend in
person, ostensibly because they would be
offended by the vulgar language used by the
men watching the game but also because they
are not allowed to watch men in shorts that
close up and in person. Panahi's own daughter
was denied permission to attend a soccer game
and that was the inspiration for this drama.

Despite the ban, many young girls often
attempt to sneak into the stadium by
disguising themselves as boys. It has become
such a problem that there are now army guards
at the entrances who search everyone    
entering. If caught, the women are held in a
pen where they can hear the game but not
watch it before they are taken to the police
headquarters.

Panahi's group of disparate young women range
from a tomboy to a timid pre-teen to a girl
brazen enough to wear an army uniform. They
are watched over by guards who clearly would
rather be somewhere else.

The director captures the startling way that
women tease and intimidate men as well as
one another. There's a sisterhood, but there's   
also a competition and it's all on display in this
terrific documentary-like feature. As with most
Iranian films, the cast is comprised of
non-professionals who lend a verisimilitude to
work. There's a moment near the end as the
group wait in hushed silence to listen to the
end of the game that is uplifting and beautifully
staged. My one complaint is that the final
sequence of the film ran a bit too long. But that
is a minor quibble:
OFFSIDE is a gem that
should not be missed.


Rating:               B +
Running time:     99 mins