78 user 106 critic

Osama (2003)

PG-13 | | Drama | 27 June 2003 (Afghanistan)
The Taliban are ruling Afghanistan, they being a repressive regime especially for women, who, among other things, are not allowed to work. This situation is especially difficult for one ... See full summary »



Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 14 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Mohammad Arif Herati ...
Zubaida Sahar ...
Mohammad Nadir Khwaja ...
Mohamad Haref Harati
Gul Rehman Ghorbandi ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Khwaja Nader
Hamida Refah


The Taliban are ruling Afghanistan, they being a repressive regime especially for women, who, among other things, are not allowed to work. This situation is especially difficult for one family consisting solely of three women representing three successive generations. All the males in their family have died in various Afghani wars. The mother had been working as a nurse in a hospital, but regardless of she not being allowed to work, the Taliban has cut off funding to the hospital. The mother and grandmother make what they feel is the only decision they can to survive: they will have the preteen daughter masquerade as a boy so that she can get a job to support the family. The daughter, feeling powerless, agrees despite being scared as if the Taliban discover her masquerade, she is certain they will kill her. Partly as a symbolic measure, the daughter plants a lock of her now cut hair in a pot so that her lost femininity can flourish. The only people outside the family who know of the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

taliban | boy | girl | school | hair | See All (175) »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:


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Release Date:

27 June 2003 (Afghanistan)  »

Also Known As:

Afghan Zero nen  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$46,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$51,969 (USA) (6 February 2004)


$1,127,331 (USA) (23 April 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Official submission of Afghanistan for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 76th Academy Awards in 2004. See more »


The first time Osama is encouraged to climb the tree, the amount of light on her face changes between shots. The close shot shows the right side of her face in shadow, while in the long shot from the top of the tree all of her face is in sunlight. See more »


Referenced in 16 Days in Afghanistan (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

realistic, deliberate, and on a grave subject (9 out of 10)
16 May 2004 | by (Vancouver, Canada) – See all my reviews

I'm not going to give an account of the plot of the movie, which according to some other reviewers on this forum--and I may add that I agree with them in words--is very simple. The simplicity of the brutality that was brought upon the Afghan people by the Taliban of course does not need many words to convey. Everyone who has heard of the words "oppression," "religious extremism," and "brutality" can give an account of the dreadful reign of the Taliban over Afghanistan. So, I'm totally amazed by the, dare I say, shallow perspective of some reviewers here that take this simplicity as a weakness of the movie. I don't think that the simplicity and/or familiarity of the plot tells *anything* about the strength or the weakness of the movie, nor does it decrease the gravity of the story.

Another alleged weakness of the movie I wish to dispel is its slow pace. I hardly see why that could be regarded as a weakness when in all its seconds the movie is conveying so much (visual) emotion and from such a close shot. You get to see the real--as far as my experience goes--behaviour of the mullahs, the real mechanisms by which they take hold of the vortex of power in such a war-ridden land.

On a slightly different note, I was quite surprised to read the feature review on the first page of the movie info, Eyal Philippsborn write "was it the setting or did the Taliban also banned the building of houses with roofs?" well, was it the setting or the catastrophes of about 30 years of civil war and social chaos, Eyal?

Another expressed criticism I read in the previous reviews was that such deep and engulfing sense of misery cannot possibly be the truth. This is an attempt to reduce the level of the movie to some sort of intellectual propaganda. I have to completely disagree. For two reasons: first of all, in the limited time-span of a movie, one cannot possible hope to see all aspects of life. The director has to choose what s/he wants to show and convey, and quite understandably this movie is about the plagues brought upon an entire nation by the Taliban. And secondly, even though the movie mainly focuses on the miserable life of its characters in such surrealistic-to-the-western-eye settings, it does show tiny glimpses of the beauty of life: the lullaby that the grandma sings to put the little girl to sleep, or the joyful, threatening Espandi (the boy with the smoking bucket of wild rue [Epand in Persian or Dari]) who turns into a supporter of the little girl when she's overwhelmed by the aggressive, intrusive boys in the Taliban's Quranic school.

I'm not an expert on the more techy parts of the movie-making business, but as an avid movie-goer, I could not pinpoint any particular weakness in terms of camera-work, plot, etc. I tend to think that the complaints the movie receives on these aspects is a more-or-less direct result of a state of being spoiled by the glamorous Hollywood-driven movie industry.

The only real drawback to the movie was its subtitles. Eyal also noted in the above-mentioned feature review that the opening quote of the movie was obviously--and I think unnecessarily--altered in the caption. The real quote is by Ali Shariati, the celebrated idealogue of the Islamic Revolution in Iran--who died before he could see it happen--which says: "[Oh, God,] Put me among those who give away their worldly desires for their religious one, not those who give away their religious desires for their worldly ones." This is turned into a concise quote by Mandela instead: "I cannot forget, but I can forgive." Not the same thing at all, and I'm not really sure I would say implying the same thing either. The quote by Shariati is in fact very suggestive, and ambiguous in the context of the movie.

Finally, yes, the movie is grim, and hard to take, but far from dull or artificial. Overall, Osama is a big step into the real examination of the misery of a people who have been deprived even of a glimpse of a normal life by the almost cosmological forces of the international politics.

66 of 73 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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