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"Offside" is about a group of Iranian girls who attempts to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium dressed as boys in order to watch a big football match but some get caught and arrested. After the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, women are not allowed to enter the stadiums. Written by
Several young Iranian women dress as boys and try to get into a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain. When they're caught, they're penned in an area where the match remains within earshot, but out of sight. The prisoners plead to be let go, but rules are rules.
Given the pedigree of its director, Jafar Panahi, it was disarming to discover that Offside is a comedy, and a frequently hilarious one. In 1997's The Mirror, Panahi presents two versions of Iranian girlhood and leaves the audience to wonder which one is "real". In 2000's The Circle, several Iranian women step outside the system; their transgressions are different, but they all end up in the same tragic place.
However, thinking now about Offside, it's hard to imagine it as anything other than a comedy, because the situation it presents is so obviously ridiculous. As the women demand to know why they can't watch the soccer match and their captors struggle to answer, the only possible outcome is comedy.
What makes Offside most affecting is that the young women are not portrayed as activists attacking the system. They are simply soccer fans and patriots, and despite the fact that they are clearly being treated unfairly, they never lose their focus on the match and the historic victory that is within their nation's grasp.
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