IT’S ANYBODY’S GAME: But Jafar Panahi’s pro-feminist drama actually scores.
As it did the director’s pro-feminist 2000 neo-realist drama The Circle, the Iranian government has banned Jafar Panahi’s latest contemplation of the oppression of women in Iran. Offside takes a lighter tack as it challenges the law barring women from public sporting events. Six disparate females — ranging from shy and mousy to acerbic and tomboyish — dress up as boys (one audaciously as a soldier) and get caught as they try to sneak into Iran’s World Cup 2006 qualifier against Bahrain. They’re relegated to a makeshift holding pen atop Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, able to hear the roar of the crowd with cutting clarity but just a few tantalizing feet from seeing the game (which Iran won, 1-0). Instead they engage in a debate with the young soldiers guarding them; the men aren’t happy about enforcing the law, but they fear reprisal if they show any leniency. Amid the back and forth of the game, Panahi taps into universal humanity and delivers a liberating twist in the contest’s aftermath.