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A Review

OFFSIDE
Iran
88 minutes

Director: Jafar Panahi
Cast: Sima Mobarak Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayeshta Irani, M. Kheyrabadi, Ida Sadeghi

World Cup football (soccer) fever sweeps most of the globe and Iranians are passionate about the game as anyone. “Offside” focuses on a group of Tehran girls who are as fanatically enthusiastic as all other Iranians… with one exception: they are female.  As such they are not permitted to attend the battle between Iran and Bahrain for a slot in the once-every-four-year Finals. Not to be deterred they paint their faces and dress up like boys. But one by one they are stopped at the gates of the stadium and arrested, forced to experience the excitement from a holding pen just outside or on the radio while in the paddy wagon.

Panahi is one of Iran’s most internationally celebrated directors who is best known for his films Crimson Gold (‘03), The Circle (Dayereh) (‘00), The Mirror (1998) and The White Balloon (1995). In this film he adds humor to the mix of his neo-realistic style, and his hand picked non-professional cast is up to the challenge. This absurdity is Panahi’s way of reproaching Iran’s patriarchal mores, taking a stand for a more liberal social order. Throughout the course of the film we see that not even the soldiers can explain the logic of this kind of sexism.

Although his films attract audiences the world over, “Offside” joins “Crimson Gold” and “The Circle” as being banned in Iran despite their winning prizes in Venice, Locarno and Cannes. “Offside” was filmed during the World Cup playoffs.

“Offside” won Berlin’s Golden Bear.
– Stephen Ashton

 

Interviewed at AFI Film Festival

Jafar Panahi
An Interview

Story and PhotographyPut Image Here
By Stephen Ashton

Poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles ~ AFI FEST

Stephen Ashton: OFFSIDE... Tell us about the title.

Jafar Panahi: Since the movie is about 'football' or 'soccer' we had to pull something from the belly of the game. They have a law in soccer called 'offside' - it means that a player has entered an illegal territory of the game. Permission has not been granted to him. Our women in the film also have entered an illegal area.

SA: Because the title has a double meaning, does the situation portrayed in the film stand as a metaphor for Iranian society?

JP: I use the football game as a metaphor to show the discrimination against women on a larger scale. All my movies have that topic at their center. This is what I am trying to change in Iranian society.

SA: If all of your films deal on some inner level with oppression, discrimination and limitation then everyone knows what your films are up to... is it hard to get funding in Iran for them?

JP:  I finance all my films myself. I have been fortunate enough that people from different corners of the world want to make movies with me. I want to finance them myself so I can make my movies my way. I never take money from the Iranian government.

SA: Last night you told me that most people in Iran had seen "Offiside" as pirated copies on DVD, but not in the theatres.

JP: The last three of my movies have NEVER been seen on the screen in Iran. "The Circle," "Crimson Gold" and "Offside" have had a lot of problems in Iran. They have not been given permission by the government to be shown.

SA: Would it be possible for you to sell your own DVD's in stores in Iran?

JP: No, only if you have government permission to show from the Ministry of Guidance. They tell you what can be in the script and what cannot. And then when its done, you show them the film and they tell you what can be in it and what can't.

SA: That's very challenging, isn't it?

JP: Censorship is like that. Censorship has existed before the (Islamic) Revolution, and it exists after it. You have difficulty at every turn, but you have to concentrate to make the movie that your heart and your mind desires.

SA: It’s amazing that so many wonderful Iranian films are made. They are among my very favorite because they don't just have one simple story. They have stories on top of other stories built layer by layer.

JP: Yes, Iranian films have various dimensions and it allows the viewer to use his knowledge and intelligence to reach all those layers you are talking about. Some just see the top skin of the film that describes the main story of the movie and the humanity of the film; and those that know more about film will be able to delve deeper into the movie and see something deeper.
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Stephen Ashton writes about cinema, culture and cuisine and is the Founder/Director of the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival.