Jafar Panahi’s Offside is another cyclically-crafted jewel in the spectacular crown of Iran’s national cinema—a sterling example of grace resonating from grueling cultural pressure. Much has been written about this film as a lightweight version of Panahi’s The Circle, but it has more in common with the great director’s Crimson Gold, another masterwork about seemingly irrevocable forces locking people into suffocating social strata. Separating Offside from The Circle and Crimson Gold is, yes, its humor, but don’t let anyone downplay its complex disquisition on sexual and identity politics and vibrant illumination of the crippling frustration of social exclusion that provokes the film’s women to revolution when they dress up as men in order to sneak into the soccer stadium where their country’s team competes for a chance to go to the World Cup. The resilience of these women to be included in the nationalist reverie their men would deny them is something that is alternately heartbreaking and fierce. How sad that they are kept behind barricades for much of the film (some might call this group of women an axis of evil), mere feet away from an entryway that would allow them a glimpse of the vast green field of grass where the country’s team competes for a chance to validate its worth to the world stage. Panahi puts us in the shoes of his heroines, denying us a vision of that green for much of the film—that is, until an officer runs into the stadium to chase after one of his captives. When the field appears on the screen, the explosion of color and screams together suggests the euphoria of a paradise found. Panahi and his actors, through incisive wit and drama, not only illuminate the absurdity of how women are denied every day pleasures in Iran but the ease with which communication melts the barriers between genders. This has always been the humanist Panahi’s stock-in-trade: tragedy spectacularly laced with hope.
Colors are lush, especially the paradise green of the soccer field, and the robust audio conveys the intense warrior's guile of the film's women.
Jafar Panahi eloquently discusses the inspiration for the film, the gender politics of his homeland, the difficulty he has making films in Iran, and his fruitless efforts to get the movie screened in Iran for at least a week in order to qualify for Oscar consideration. Rounding out the disc is a bunch of previews.
The only thing bad that can be said about the arrival of Offside to video is its lousy DVD cover art.