Directed by Jafar Panahi and written by Panahi and Shadmehr Rastin, Offside is the story about a group of young girls who disguise themselves as boys so they can go see a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain. The film explores the world of Iranian oppression towards women as it revolves around a group of girls and their fascination for football. Starring Shima Mobarak-Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayesteh Irani, Ayda Sadeqi, and Golnaz Farmani. Offside is a compelling very rich drama from Jafar Panahi.
Since women are banned at attending stadiums for football events in Iran, the film explores how a few women try to attend a very important game for their country only to get caught and forced to miss the game outside of the stadium. Throughout the film, they talk to guards who are just trying to do their jobs. Notably the head guard who is trying not to screw up so he wouldn’t have to endure more headaches with his job as he wasn’t supposed to work that day. Yet, the girls do try to cause trouble but are aware of the consequences for the guards as they’re resigned to just listen to the game. The guards would also sympathize with the women since they find an injustice that it’s OK for Bahraini women to attend the game wearing white scarves but Iranian women couldn’t attend the game.
The screenplay that Jafar Panahi and Shadmehr Rastin create isn’t just about the hypocrisy towards women in Iran all because they wanted to see a football game. It’s really about the fact that this game is so important to the country that the women just want to be part of it no matter what the outcome it’s going to be. While the guards aren’t totally intimidating towards the women as they’re just interested in what is happening. Their jobs are on the line as they know how cruel the law is towards women while they’re aware that there could be more inside the stadium disguising themselves as men. While there’s not much plot that goes on throughout the film other than a few storylines as it includes a young woman needing to go the bathroom and an old man trying to find his daughter. It’s all about going to this game as one of the girls have much deeper reasons to go to the game as the screenwriters allow these characters to be very complex.
The lack of a conventional script allows Jafar Panahi to really take a very engaging approach to the direction. Shot on location in Azadi Stadium and mostly during the actual game itself as if Panahi is going for a cinema verite approach to the film. It adds to the suspense of what is happening as the characters in the film are just as interested to hear and see what is happening. There’s moments of excitement and frustration that occurs as the film would then move out of the stadium for the third act as the six women are accompanied by the guards to possibly meet their fates. Yet, they’re all still interested in the game as the head guard tries to fix a faulty antenna or make a stop for drinks as the camera is fixated on the TV where the characters are wondering what is happening.
Since the film is always being engaged by what is happening as there’s a brief scene where a guard takes a young woman to the bathroom as she had to cover her face by wearing a poster as he would also try to stop men from entering the bathroom. The camera is always at the center of everything where there’s a lot of long takes just so Panahi can capture the naturalness of the conversations that occur. While he would also employ a few stylized shots such as a girl describing what she had seen. Panahi, who is also the editor, goes for a methodical approach to the pacing while knowing when to capture a certain rhythm of the conversation through stylish cuts. Overall, Panahi creates a very extraordinary yet very entrancing film about a group of women just wanting to go to a football game.
Cinematographers Rami Agami and Mahmoud Kalari do great work with the naturalistic camera work to shoot the gorgeous daytime and evening-time exteriors outside of the stadium as well as wonderful look of the stadium inside for a small key scene in the film. Production designer Iraj Raminfar does nice work with the minimal set pieces created such as the barricade outside of the stadium as well as the van‘s interior. Sound work by Nezamoddin Kiaie is superb for the way the sound of the crowd is captured from outside of the stadium‘s walls to give insight into what the characters are hearing. Notably as there isn’t an actual music score heard in the film as everything heard is on location except for a song in the end of the film.
The film’s ensemble cast is definitely the film’s major highlight for the realistic yet charismatic performances that is presented for the film. In the role of the three guards, Safdar Samandar, Mohammad Kheir-abadi, and Masoud Kheymeh-kabood are excellent as these sympathetic guards just trying to do their jobs. Other small roles include Ali Baradi as a bus passenger early in the film who notices one of the girls as well as Reza Farhadi as the old man looking for his daughter. In the role of the six women portrayed in the film, there’s sensational performances from Mahnaz Zabihi as a young woman wearing a soldier uniform, Nazanin Sediq-zadeh as a girl looking for her uncle, Golnaz Farmani as the girl who later sports a tchador, Ayda Sadeqi as the football-fanatic girl who needed to go to the bathroom, Shayesteh Irani as the brash girl who smokes a cigarette, and Shima Mobarak-Shahi as the first girl presented in the film who tries to find a way to get into the stadium.
Offside is a marvelous and captivating film from Jafar Panahi. Featuring an outstanding ensemble cast and a very imaginative yet vibrant approach to the storytelling. It’s a film that is truly one-of-a-kind by taking a simple story and making it a whole lot more. Notably as it involves a chance to get into a very big event as it’s about a group of people wanting to support their home country as if they’re apart of something. In the end, Offside is a brilliant and hypnotic film from Jafar Panahi.
Jafar Panahi Films: (Kish) - (The Last Exam) - (The White Balloon) - (Ardekoul) - (The Mirror (1997 film)) - (The Circle (2000 film)) - (Crimson Gold) - (This is Not a Film)
© thevoid99 2012