Forever Under Construction

Offside

Posted in Football, Iran, Movie, Society by homeyra on May 11, 2007

offside_posterbig.jpg

by Jafar Panahi, released in 2006
See trailer at Sony Pictures Classic or here
About the movie, cast and crew

I saw this movie recently, it will give you an idea of some of the “excitements” we deal with 🙂

What does a girl have to do to get into a soccer stadium and cheer for her team? … Given that women aren’t allowed inside the stadium, a disparate group of daring young girl demonstrate resourcefulness: they dress as men, even officers – and enter the stadium.

Some of these girls are caught and taken to a holding area in the custody of a group of young soldiers who would rather be watching the game themselves.

The girls are a mixed bunch, from timid to tomboy, who find camaraderie in their situation. The dynamics between the young women and the soldiers shift during the course of the match, as a mutual passion for soccer mellows hostilities and they are united by their obsessive desire for Iran to win.

golnaz_farmani6.jpgA fearless girl smokes and tries to bully the provincial soldier, who all he cares about is finishing up his stint in the army so that he can go home and take care of his family’s cattle. Another soldier gives the girls a running commentary of the game goings-on. One of the girls insists on using the bathroom, which turns into a comedy: there are no women’s bathrooms in the stadium. The soldiers and their prisoners are close in age, the girls’ crimes are harmless. They have a hard time maintaining their adversarial roles.

As the game nears it’s end, the girls are rounded up in a van to be transported to jail. The soldier in charge turns on the radio so the girls hear the final moments of the game. Iran wins the qualifying match, the streets overflow with celebrants. Social realities are put aside in the temporary high of a sports victory and communal jubilation.

In a mixture of humor, outrage, and patriotism, Panahi reveals the inner lives of the characters and the contradictions of the present day Iranian society: all that bounds together despite all the absurdities to live with: a human mess which Panahi obviously loves.

jafar-panahi-offside.jpg

Panahi’s words:

The film is constructed like a documentary … I have inserted fictional characters… The places are real, the event is real … I purposefully chose not to use professional actors… the soldier I found in Tabriz … the girls … were mainly university students … The dialogues were written in advance. But we’d only give them to the actors right before each scene was shot… “You’re supposed to say this. Now go do whatever you want with it.” … they went along and really left themselves open, and they let us work with them the way that we wanted…

I take a relatively simple subject and try to develop all the issues surrounding it, everything in general which relates to this one simple subject… ends up representing a greater problem on a larger scale in society

… the barrier between what is permitted and forbidden isn’t always very clear… those who are there to enforce the laws have their own personal interpretations … people will always try to do what they want anyway…

… Our women here, in the film, they’ve entered a forbidden space before the law has given them permission to do so. They don’t have that permission yet, but they’ve gone ahead and entered the territory anyway

… Women are these bold beings who know their own way… They have the courage to break these rules, all the while knowing they’re going to have to go back to where they started, knowing that perhaps nothing will change. But all their efforts are focused on action. It doesn’t matter that they might have to go back to zero. They’re willing to start all over again …

I live in Iran and make films in Iran. All my films are constructed around the notion of restriction, limitation, confinement and boundaries… My films draw on reality and that I don’t add anything to reality… the ending isn’t really up to me. It’s up to society…

jafar_panahi_1.jpgFirst trip outside Iran: As soon as I stepped out of Iran … the constant comparison began. That is, I realized there’s nothing we lack … We have all the resources right here, natural and economic. We have everything. Why have we come to be like this? What happened to us? Why aren’t we using our resources?… This land could be a paradise. Why haven’t we done all we can for our country? I started to feel really upset.
However, every time I went abroad, I only had one wish, and that was to return home. … these trips do have one great benefit: When you just stay in Iran, what happens — and it happens gradually — is that you start to accept the way things are. You’re forced to accept that this is life and that where you are is the center of the world … I can’t live anywhere other than in Iran…

Credits:
Jafar Panahi on Offside, Payvand
Interview with Jafar Panahi, LA Weekly
Interview with Jafar Panahi, Open Democracy
More about Panahi’s movies, Vertigo Magazine
Offside trap, the Global Game
The women in Offside, Washington City Paper
Offside, the IFC blog

Update, another review: The Game of Rules, June 27, 2007

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7 Responses

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  1. musicalchef said, on May 11, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    sounds like an excellent movie! I’ll have to check it out.

  2. homeyra said, on May 12, 2007 at 9:36 am

    I hope you’ll tell us about when you see it.

  3. Karen said, on May 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Hey Homeyra! This looks like a cool movie. I was looking at Panahi’s work on the link you gave – I realized I had seen the movie “Crimson Gold” which he did, at a film festival at the university I went to. It was interesting! It looks like it was actually filmed in Tehran too! At that same film festival I saw another movie called “Marooned in Iraq” – which is about Kurdish family in Iran around the time of the Iran-Iraq war I think. I would highly recommend that one – just because it is very entertaining. I just enjoyed watching the familial interaction between the father and his two sons on a road trip – hysterical – reminded me of my own familial interactions haha…check it out if you can get your hands on it!

  4. homeyra said, on May 12, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Karen 🙂
    Both of these directors: Panahi here and Gobadi of Marooned in Iraq, used to work which to famous director: Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf.
    I haven’t seen the movie, thanks for the info, I will look into it.
    Here is more about Marooned in Iraq.

  5. Karen said, on May 16, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I will have to check out movies from those two directors too! 🙂 Thanks!

  6. Servant said, on May 17, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Homey, you do such a great job of showing us the real beauty of Iran. I really appreciate it.

    I just love this aha moment: “That is, I realized there’s nothing we lack … We have all the resources right here, natural and economic. We have everything. ”

    Indeed!

    Never doubted it for a second.

    Iran will bloom and the whole world will see it in replendent technicolor because you are our eyes in Iran. I’m beginning to love Iran as much as you do.

    Thank you.

  7. homeyra said, on May 17, 2007 at 5:26 am

    Re Karen 🙂
    I just saw this: Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian cinema.
    Dear Serv, thank you for you enthusiasm! Oh, well, you know – stuck in contradictions:- what could be and what can be and what it is and what should be and what would be and ….
    🙂


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