A Review by Stephen Ashton

OFFSIDE
Iran
88 minutes

Director: Jafar Panahi
Cast: Sima Mobarak Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayeshta Irani, M. Kheyrabadi, Ida Sadeghi

World Cup football (soccer) fever sweeps most of the globe and Iranians are passionate about the game as anyone. “Offside” focuses on a group of Tehran girls who are as fanatically enthusiastic as all other Iranians… with one exception: they are female.  As such they are not permitted to attend the battle between Iran and Bahrain for a slot in the once-every-four-year Finals. Not to be deterred they paint their faces and dress up like boys. But one by one they are stopped at the gates of the stadium and arrested, forced to experience the excitement from a holding pen just outside or on the radio while in the paddy wagon.

Panahi is one of Iran’s most internationally celebrated directors who is best known for his films Crimson Gold (‘03), The Circle (Dayereh) (‘00), The Mirror (1998) and The White Balloon (1995). In this film he adds humor to the mix of his neo-realistic style, and his hand picked non-professional cast is up to the challenge. This absurdity is Panahi’s way of reproaching Iran’s patriarchal mores, taking a stand for a more liberal social order. Throughout the course of the film we see that not even the soldiers can explain the logic of this kind of sexism.

Although his films attract audiences the world over, “Offside” joins “Crimson Gold” and “The Circle” as being banned in Iran despite their winning prizes in Venice, Locarno and Cannes. “Offside” was filmed during the World Cup playoffs.

“Offside” won Berlin’s Golden Bear.
– Stephen Ashton