Movie Reveiws : Forum : Offside - Dull but Insightful

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Offside - Dull but Insightful

17 Years Ago

�Offside� is the story of a gaggle of women attempting to attend a men�s soccer event in Iran. A movie with just as much social commentary as dialogue, �Offside� is a little slow but a humbling reminder of how far women�s rights have come in America compared to other parts of the world.

A group of women try to attend a soccer game. Unfortunately, in Iran it is illegal, and in some instances punishable by death for a woman to attend a men�s sporting event. The women try to dress as men and sneak their way past the police there to stop any unwieldy women from attending. The women in the story have all failed to sneak past the police and are being held in a small area behind some barricades, just outside the arena. Their detainers do their best to silence, quell, and shame the women before they give up and just try to contain them. None of the soldiers want to be on woman duty, most don�t want to be in the service at all.

There are no big name actors in this movie, even for Iran. This movie is so controversial, the Iranian government refuses to allow its distribution, for good reason. Everything the women and soldiers in the story challenges the established government. There is a conversation between one of the detained women and a guard about why women are not allowed. He begins rattling off his arguments and she asks a pointed question for each of his rationales. In the end he is left to just essentially admit his reason is �because� and gives up. The soldiers each have a back story. One is a farmer whose crop is dying but he has been drafted. He�s worried his mother and cattle will starve if he doesn�t get back. Any screw up and he�ll have to serve in the army his entire life. He obviously doesn�t care if the women go into the game or not but he feels his life and the life of his family depends on the women staying put.

This movie has the typical feel of a Middle Eastern movie. The shots are essentially tripod shots that linger from one angle for a long time. Most of the movie takes place in the back outside of an arena. The director makes no attempt to make the setting interesting or varied. Some shots stay in place for more than ten minutes. It is very light on dialogue, it relies a lot on the fact that the body acting will be enough and you will be patient enough to sit through the long shots. There is little music to move the long shots along. The translation feels a like they used a cheap translator. They get all the words right but not the feeling behind the words. The movie depends on the quality of the actors.

The director, Jafar Panahi, specifically decided to not use professional actors. (I�m sure no big name actors would risk making a movie like this either.) �Offside� could have used an acting coach on the set though. Many of the performances, even though tackling important social issues, don�t seem to measure up with the importance of these women�s situation. In scenes where the realization they are in serious trouble is supposed to resonate, it just falls flat. I will say though that each character is very individual. Some are easily shamed, others shameless. One character is practically mute through the entire movie while others smart off to the guards.

This movie also requires that you know about soccer, a little about Iranian culture and the Japan vs Iran World Cup Soccer qualifying game. Since you probably know enough about the first two, I�ll fill you in on the last. During the World Cup game in question Japanese women were allowed into the arena. There was also a stampede at the end where seven people were killed. Six of the bodies were shown in the media, the other is rumored to have been a woman. This is very important to the end of the movie, yet the director/writer and co-writer Shadmehr Rastin don�t seem to need to let us in on the facts. I only know this because I get a press packet.

This movie is very powerful in many ways though. What it lacks in standard film making style, it makes up for in important social commentary. We all know that Iran isn�t the beacon of hope when it comes to civil rights. This movie does tackle the difference between old men and young men when it comes to their perspective on women�s rights. It requires the characters to challenge their own values. It shows the systematic sexism in the country. What is more harmless than a soccer game? It is so systematically sexist that the arenas don�t even have women�s bathrooms. It also looks at how the government treats the men in its military. Forced to serve, their personal lives suffer dramatically. The discussions, themes and characters are important.

This movie definitely isn�t for everyone. I would encourage those people interested in the status of women around the world, or who want to get a better understanding of the people we
view as our enemies, see this movie. It is an important discussion we should all have.


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LaRae Meadows
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