Siddiq Barmak’s Osama is the first film to be made in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s removal from power and, not surprisingly, was rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination by the Hollywood Foreign Press. Though the film would have been virtually impossible to make before the U.S.-led invasion in the region, it shouldn’t be seen as a production hand-stamped by the Bush administration. Set during an unspecified time of war, Barmak offers an unrelenting glimpse of what life was like for women under the Taliban. When her mother loses her job at a local hospital, a 12-year-old girl (an outstanding Marina Golbahari) must pretend to be a boy in order to secure work and make money for the family. Now referred to as Osama, the young girl must dodge a series of prickly situations that threaten to expose her womanhood. Osama may seem redundant after Jafar Panahi’s more structurally impressive The Circle or Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s absurdist Kandahar, but it’s no less powerful. Barmak’s images are frequently outstanding but it’s his crowd scenes that are most breathtaking. A documentary filmmaker records women in blue burqas engaged in a strike before the Taliban arrives and arrests both the artist and his subjects. Later, the boys at a Taliban training camp accuse Osama of being a girl when a religious elder calls her a nymphet. When she climbs a tree to prove her boyhood, all sound dissipates from the world and it’s as if the little girl with the sad eyes has found a little peace of heaven. But there’s no hiding here and soon she must dodge a rabid attack by a community of boys before she’s sent to the Taliban for punishment. Time repeatedly slows down, and from one prison to the next, she jumps rope to forget (or is it to dream?). In the end, a simple child’s game becomes the ultimate hope for freedom.
- United Artists
- 83 min
- Siddiq Barmak
- Siddiq Barmak
- Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar, Gol Rahman Ghorbandi, Mohamad Haref Harati, Mohamad Nader Khadjeh, Khwaja Nader, Hamida Refah
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