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Iranian film, Offside

Unbelievable film making

Iranian film, Offside, poster

I just cannot believe I just watched a surreal film two days ago, one made way back in 2006. I was just about to write a review of “The Circle” that I watched many years ago when I chanced upon this film of Jafar Panahi on YouTube and eventually ended up watching that instead of writing the review.

The realism of the film like other wonderful Iranian films is just unbelievable and you’ll find me using this word over and over again in this review and not without reason.

In short the story is about a bunch of girls who try to get into the stadium where the 2005 World Cup qualifier match between Iran and Bahrain is taking place. Women aren’t allowed into the stadium and what follows is one incredible piece of a movie, most of it shot when the actual game was taking place. You just wonder how actors in this film pull of something like this. Long extended single shots are a plenty in the film and acting in them impeccably is no joke. The girl in the soldier’s uniform was the real deal. And most of the cast and crew acting for the first time? And filming among the crowds without grabbing attention? Add to it the actual celebrations! Just Unbelievable!

By the way the film is banned (like several others of his) in Iran because it depicts how women are treated in Iran? Jafar Panahi, has been one of those directors severely persecuted for his work even imprisoned and banned from doing film work and even leaving the country.

The making of this film itself was one big adventure and a very interesting read. The following two paragraphs have been taken from Jafar’s page on Wikipedia.

The film was inspired by an incident several years earlier when Panahi’s daughter was refused entry to a football stadium but ended up sneaking into the stadium anyway. Knowing that the film would be controversial, Panahi and his crew submitted a fake script about some young men who go to a football match to Iranian authorities in order to get permission to make the film. However, before they began shooting the Ministry of Guidance, which issues licenses for films to be shown publicly, told Panahi in advance that because of his past films they would not issue Offside a license until he re-edited his previous films. Not wanting to miss the World Cup tournament, Panahi ignored the Ministry and began shooting the film. As usual, Panahi cast non-professional actors for the film, and the group of young girls in the lead roles were mostly university students that Panahi found through friends who all were passionate fans of football. The film was shot in 39 days and in order to move unnoticed through large crowds Panahi used digital video for the first time so as to have a smaller, more inconspicuous camera. Panahi also officially listed his Assistant Director as the Director of the film so as not to attract the attention of the Ministry of Guidance or the Disciplinary Forces of Tehran, but towards the end of the films shooting a newspaper article about the making of the film listed Panahi as the director and both organizations attempted to shut the film down and confiscate the footage. Only a sequence that takes place on a bus remained to be filmed so Panahi was able to continue filming without being caught.

The film premiered in competition at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where Panahi was awarded with the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix. Like The Circle and Crimson Gold before it, Offside was banned from being shown in Iran. Panahi had already set up distribution for the film all over Iran and the film was predicted to break all box office records. Two days after being banned and twenty days before the World Cup championship game, unlicensed DVD copies of the film became available all over Iran. Panahi has stated that of his films Offside is “probably the one that people have seen the most” in Iran. After the film’s release a feminist protest group in Iran called the White Scarf Girls began showing up at football matches carrying banners that read: “We don’t want to be Offside”Sony Pictures Classics, the film’s U.S. distributor, wrote a letter to the Ministry of Guidance in Iran requesting that the film be shown for at least one week in its home country so that they could launch a campaign to nominate the film for Best Foreign Language Film, but the Ministry refused.

There is that touch of patriotism too with the only actual piece of music and song about Iran played as the film concludes. Watch it to believe it! Highly, highly recommended. The link to the film on YouTube with English subtitles below.

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Love to shred movies that are crap, eulogize ones that are good.

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Subash Sarath Lakshmi

Subash Sarath Lakshmi

Software Programmer turned Technical Writer, Writer, Blogger, Trainer, spiritual seeker tyring to better my life and the lives of others via my writings.

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