Friday, August 31, 2007

Offside (2006, Jafar Panahi)

It's a crying shame that this never made it to Columbus screens, since it's really the sort of crowdpleaser that should be enjoyed with a nice big audience. As with many of the most lauded Iranian films, Panahi is dealing with his country's treatment of women, this time by centering the story around the banning of women from sporting events. But his approach is neither satirical nor didactic. Instead he tells his story in microcosm, focusing on a small group of female soccer fans and the soldiers who guard them after the women are arrested and sequestered from the male spectators. By situating his story at the fringes of a major soccer game (Panahi shot large portions of the film at a 2005 World Cup qualifying match versus Bahrain), the absurdity of the situation can come out through the characters and their actions rather than the convolutions of the story. It's telling that the soldiers are extremely pissed off about their task, not just because they can't enjoy the game, but also because they're sort of at a loss to explain why female soccer spectators are such a bane on society. They hem and haw and regurgitate the orders they're given, but in the face of the women's conviction they're sort of helpless. Against this lazily united front, the women band together. They knew the risk when they came to the game, and now that they've been caught they're going to make the best of it. After Iran wins the game, the women end up getting away, but it's telling that their joyous escape isn't a victory for feminism, but nationalism. And what is nationalism if it can't be shared by everyone? Rating: 8 out of 10.

No comments: