dir. Jafar Panahi | 2006 | Iran | 93 mins | Persian with English/Indonesian sub
Inspired by the director’s daughter’s story, Offside tells the story of a group of girls who try to watch a World Cup qualifying match 2005 between Iran and Bahrain, an event deemed as too obscene for women and girls to be allowed into. Banned in Iran, the film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2006, and was in the official selection for the 2006 New York and Toronto Film Festivals.
Rounded outside the stadium to wait for their punishment, the girls are tantalisingly guarded within earshot of the excitement. Rhetorics on why women and girls are not allowed inside the stadium are met with the usual hollow replies bereft of arguments (because “the chief” says so) although Panahi restrained from judgemental depictions.
Although shot in the same semi-documentary style of his previous films using non-professional actors, in contrast to Crimson Gold or The Circle, Offside weaves more tongue-in-cheek, grudging comedies inside its story. Additionally, since much of the film was shot on the actual Iran-Bahrain match at Tehran’s Azadi stadium, the ending feels rather slapdashed into a sentimentalised optimism. With all due respect, the reference to the real-life tragedy of the seven spectators’ death in 2005 after the Japan game if anything, seems rather desultory, pasted at the last minute to inject more gritty socio-political edge. Not Panahi’s best (I would recommend Crimson Gold for a Panahi newbie), perhaps, but worth watching still.