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:: Offside

This film was topical and worthy in the World Cup period because it tells of circumstances surrounding the qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain in late 2005, and the subject of exploitation of Iranian women.

Director Jafar Panahi tells of the solidarity of men being fanatical football supporters, especially with such an important game. It’s a noisy carnival and brings the male community together. But it’s a situation where women and girls are excluded. Girls try to disguise themselves as boys in an attempt to watch the game.

Though excluded from the game, the young women are not allowed to go home. They must remain under guard in an area outside the stadium and await punishment for their immoral behaviour.

The film, therefore, mainly features the verbal match between the women and the soldiers, all of whom curse their own misfortune at not being able to watch the football. It gets absurd at times, particularly when one of the soldiers is required to accompany a girl to the men’s toilet. There are no toilet facilities for women in the 100,000 capacity stadium.

The film is shot in almost a documentary style by Panahi and either outdoors or in a moving vehicle. The cast consists of non-professional actors and it allows much spontaneity.

It is interesting to view the dark side of world football – in the symbolism attached to the treatment of women. We don’t see any of the actual game, just the emotional depth of what it means to people.