Offside (2006) (Iran)

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Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:39 am

Offside (2006)

Directed by Jafar Panahi

A very simple storyline belies some complex issues. Several girls are individually caught trying to get in to see Irans match with Bahrain, a draw or win will see Iran qualify for the World Cup. While the match is played out the girls are held in a pen with a couple of conscripts watching over them, although they cannot see the game they convince one of the guards to describe the action, at least this way they can feel involved.

Towards the end of the match the girls are loaded into a minibus to be taken to the vice squad, while travelling through Tehran they stop outside a caf where they can see the dying seconds of the match on a television. Suddenly the streets are full of crowds chanting and celebrating, Iran have won the match and qualified, the girls and even their guards get caught up in the joy of the festivities.

Filmed with a non-professional cast, Offside is a tragicomic social realist drama which at times gives the impression of being a documentary, its hard to believe this wasnt actually filmed during the match.

The start is reminiscent of Panahis The Circle, a father of a girl who has gone straight from college to try and get into the match is desperately searching for her. He explains the situation to the taxi driver and says he fears what her brothers will do to her if they find out.

The film then switches to a girl on a coach, disguised as a boy but still very obviously feminine, one boy points her out to his mate only to be told to leave her alone. He knows itll be very hard for her to get past the guards and into the match, like the majority of the male characters he doesnt appear to have any objections to females attending and enjoying the game.

As for the girl, a tout sells her a ticket at a very marked up price knowing damn well that she will almost certainly get caught, what does he care as long as he makes a good profit. She is arrested straight away because the crowds are frisked on their way into the stadium and she refuses, accompanied by a conscript, she is taken to a pen where other girls have already been caught, more will soon be joining them.

Among the other girls, one is slightly older and far more cocky, she has obviously run the risk several times before and knows the form. Another plays soccer for a womans team, at one point she convinces the guards that she desperately needs the toilet. Since there are no womens toilets she is accompanied by a guard to the mens, this leads to one of several moments of humour, as she has to wear a disguise, a poster of an Iranian player with the eyes removed.

There is also a moment of sadness for one of the girls, the only reason she's attended the match is because a male student friend of hers was one of seven people crushed during the Iran v Japan match, apart from celebrating Iran's victory, the film also pays respect to those who lost their lives during this incident.

One thing that becomes increasingly obvious throughout the length of the film is that although the girls are victims of one of Irans many unwritten laws. Their guards, conscripted into the army and removed from their families, farms etc live under the same cloud of fear, if anything goes wrong they will be in serious trouble. The girls are there because of their love of football and the need to feel the atmosphere. The soldiers are there because orders have been given and have to be obeyed.

The film raises a lot of questions regarding laws and the treatment of women in particular. It also shows a remarkable generation gap between the males, the strict controlling father as opposed to the guards and the majority of the crowd at the match, several of whom try and help one girl escape into the stadium. Offside is full of optimism for the future, a future where women will receive fair treatment and not be excluded from things that we take for granted, I for one truly hope Panahis optimism bears fruit.

Offside gets a high recommendation, it's a provocative, thoughtful film that is humorous and entertaining as well.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated PG

R2 dvd will be released by Artificial Eye.

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:40 am

I came back from seeing Offside feeling quite positive and I couldn't wait to write my comments. Unfortunately within a few hours my whole attitude had changed which is why I've only just written my thoughts two days later.

The same evening I caught a documentary screened by BBC2 entitled Execution of a teenage girl, I've included a link to a piece about the programme and must admit that I found it profoundly disturbing and worrying. The link covers the basics but some of the information relayed in the programme was so shocking that any positive thoughts built up during Offside were totally diminished.

Sorry to include this but I felt it was far too important to be ignored.

Cheers Trev

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:42 am

Originally posted by 'A' - 8/17/06

Glad you enjoyed Offside, it was one of the highpoints of my visit at The Berlin Film Festival this year. Sadly the link for the article doesn't work anymore. Too bad that I have to catch up so late with some of the posts at this board. Could you tell a bit more about the documentary?

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:44 am

Originally posted 8/17/06

Here's a copy of the programme details, although it mainly covered this case, there was far more info and film shot of public executions. They also mentioned at the end that a thirteen year old girl who had recieved the death sentence for "moral crimes" has had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment, now that must have really cheered her up.

Execution of a teenage girl

A television documentary team has pieced together details surrounding the case of a 16-year-old girl, executed two years ago in Iran.

On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka.

Her death sentence was imposed for "crimes against chastity". The state-run newspaper accused her of adultery and described her as 22 years old. But she was not married - and she was just 16.

Sharia Law

In terms of the number of people executed by the state in 2004, Iran is estimated to be second only to China.
In the year of Atefah's death, at least 159 people were executed in accordance with the Islamic law of the country, based on the Sharia code.
Since the revolution, Sharia law has been Iran's highest legal authority.
Alongside murder and drug smuggling, sex outside marriage is also a capital crime.
As a signatory of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has promised not to execute anyone under the age of 18.
But the clerical courts do not answer to parliament. They abide by their religious supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, making it virtually impossible for human rights campaigners to call them to account.

Code of behaviour

At the time of Atefah's execution in Neka, journalist Asieh Amini heard rumours the girl was just 16 years old and so began to ask questions.
"When I met with the family," says Asieh, "they showed me a copy of her birth certificate, and a copy of her death certificate. Both of them show she was born in 1988. This gave me legitimate grounds to investigate the case."
So why was such a young girl executed? And how could she have been accused of adultery when she was not even married?

Disturbed by the death of her mother when she was only four or five years old, and her distraught father's subsequent drug addiction, Atefah had a difficult childhood.
She was also left to care for her elderly grandparents, but they are said to have shown her no affection.
In a town like Neka, heavily under the control of religious authorities, Atefah - often seen wandering around on her own - was conspicuous.
It was just a matter of time before she came to the attention of the "moral police", a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, whose job it is to enforce the Islamic code of behaviour on Iran's streets.

Secret relationship

Being stopped or arrested by the moral police is a fact of life for many Iranian teenagers.
Previously arrested for attending a party and being alone in a car with a boy, Atefah received her first sentence for "crimes against chastity" when she was just 13.
Although the exact nature of the crime is unknown, she spent a short time in prison and received 100 lashes.
When she returned to her home town, she told those close to her that lashes were not the only things she had to endure in prison. She described abuse by the moral police guards.

Soon after her release, Atefah became involved in an abusive relationship with a man three times her age.
Former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi - a married man with children - raped her several times.
She kept the relationship a secret from both her family and the authorities.
Atefah was soon caught in a downward spiral of arrest and abuse.

Local petition

Circumstances surrounding Atefah's fourth and final arrest were unusual.
The moral police said the locals had submitted a petition, describing her as a "source of immorality" and a "terrible influence on local schoolgirls".
But there were no signatures on the petition - only those of the arresting guards.
Three days after her arrest, Atefah was in a court and tried under Sharia law.
The judge was the powerful Haji Rezai, head of the judiciary in Neka.
No court transcript is available from Atefah's trial, but it is known that for the first time, Atefah confessed to the secret of her sexual abuse by Ali Darabi.
However, the age of sexual consent for girls under Sharia law - within the confines of marriage - is nine, and furthermore, rape is very hard to prove in an Iranian court.
"Men's word is accepted much more clearly and much more easily than women," according to Iranian lawyer and exile Mohammad Hoshi.
"They can say: 'You know she encouraged me' or 'She didn't wear proper dress'."

Court of appeal

When Atefah realised her case was hopeless, she shouted back at the judge and threw off her veil in protest.
It was a fatal outburst.
She was sentenced to execution by hanging, while Darabi got just 95 lashes.
Shortly before the execution, but unbeknown to her family, documents that went to the Supreme Court of Appeal described Atefah as 22.
"Neither the judge nor even Atefah's court appointed lawyer did anything to find out her true age," says her father.
And a witness claims: "The judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique... and declared her as 22."
Judge Haji Rezai took Atefah's documents to the Supreme Court himself.
And at six o'clock on the morning of her execution he put the noose around her neck, before she was hoisted on a crane to her death.

Pain and death

During the making of the documentary about Atefah's death the production team telephoned Judge Haji Rezai to ask him about the case, but he refused to comment.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International says it is concerned that executions are becoming more common again under President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, who advocates a return to the pure values of the revolution.
The judiciary have never admitted there was any mishandling of Atefah's case.
For Atefah's father the pain of her death remains raw. "She was my love, my heart... I did everything for her, everything I could," he says.

He did not get the chance to say goodbye.

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:45 am

Originally posted by 'A' - 8/17/06

Sounds very disturbing indeed. Don't know if I could stomach watching a documentary on it. Don't know what to say really...
Obviously the authorities took this extreme measure, to cut out any doubts as to the justification of the "moral police" after the rape came to be known to the public. Sounds very much like an abuse of power to secure the position of the authorities. Maybe more of them were involved in other compromising activities.

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Sep 09, 2007 3:00 am

You've captured the film quite well, Trevor. Offside is most definitely "a provocative, thoughtful film that is humorous and entertaining as well." There are never enough of these around.

Good point regarding Panahi's documentary, vrit approach. That's how wanted to tackle this script. I think the film's at its most dynamic when the camera and/or the characters are physically moving: the road to the restroom sequence certainly stands out. (And it proves that large parts of the film were actually shot during the match.) Panahi got the idea when his young daughter, who was initially denied access to a match while they were together, found a way to reach him inside.

And, yes, this isn't a polemic; soldiers aren't the villains here even though they do embody the law and all it entails. It's been a while since I've seen an Iranian film this talky. And most of the dialogue is rather colorful (and thus, realistic). Refreshing, I say.

Re: Offside (2006) (Iran)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Oct 03, 2007 2:01 am

Offside is now available on DVD in the U.S. (Sony Classics). A definitive Panahi interview, from TIFF '06, is provided as an extra feature. In it, the filmmaker discusses numerous aspects of the production, from its inception (personal experience) to his filmmaking approach (vrit) to how the end result was perceived and received (pirated VCDs). A must watch!

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