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Osama (2003)

PG-13 | | Drama, War | 27 June 2003 (Afghanistan)
After the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the restriction of women in public life, a pre-teen girl is forced to masquerade as a boy in order to find work to support her mother and grandmother.


Siddiq Barmak


Siddiq Barmak
15 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Marina Golbahari ... Osama
Khwaja Nader Khwaja Nader
Mohammad Arif Herati Mohammad Arif Herati ... Espandi
Zubaida Sahar Zubaida Sahar ... Mother
Mohamad Haref Harati Mohamad Haref Harati
Hamida Refah Hamida Refah
Gul Rehman Ghorbandi Gul Rehman Ghorbandi ... Moazin
Mohammad Nadir Khwaja Mohammad Nadir Khwaja ... Mullah


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) »


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This is the first film to be made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Previously all filming had been banned. 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 »

User Reviews

Filmmaker Barmak's "Osama" has its share of suspense drama - much is conveyed in a mere 1 hr. 22 mins.
29 February 2004 | by ruby_fffSee all my reviews

The film felt like a documentary - it was simple and straightforward. "Osama" captured many aspects of what life is like during Taliban's occupation, through the eyes of a 12-year old Afghan girl, within 1 hr. 22 mins. - it's more than most Hollywood movies manage to get across in 2 hrs. For a debut feature, w-d Siddiq Barmak delivered a quietly poignant film - it may not be evident at first impression right after seeing the film with the sadness and injustice it burdensomely carries. As I was re-telling the film's plot to someone who missed the showing, it came to me how succinctly the film tells/exposes what the women and children, and men, had to tolerate under such atrocious regime. The poverty level and misfortunate situation/predicaments are almost unspeakable.

The portrayal of Osama by Marina Golbahari is impressive: the bewilderment and fear on her face, the rare break into a smile we get to catch, her wailing and cry and crying - mostly delivered in a speechless manner. The other child actor, Arif Herati, who played the one who tried to shield her from trouble by the other boys, gave a brief but convincing Espandi. There's also Osama's mother and grandmother, and the neighbors, and the men who were 'helpless' in spite of wanting to help - the roles and scenes are all touchingly stirring. There are suspenseful moments and one wonders what would happen next - outcome could be predictable yet its share of drama and humanity lessen not. As a relieving contrast, a coming of age boys lesson in a Turkish bath setting was included - suspense and intrigue a-mixed. Barmak gave us a well-paced film, missing not a chance to provide insight to the cultural aspects of the people.

"Osama" brings to mind other similar 'hard medicine' films: Iranian director Jafar Panahi's `The Circle' 2000 (aka "Dayareh"), is the empathetic telling of the mistreatment/misfortune of four women in an unsympathetic society; director Michael Winterbottom's docudrama `In this World' released through 2003 Sundance Series, gave us an unflinching look into 'human cargo smuggling' of an Afghan refugee, 16-year old Jamal, with the persistent slim hope of a better livelihood in Britain; Xavier Koller's `Journey of Hope," the 1991 Academy Award's Best Foreign Film, is a heartbreaking tale of enduring/diminishing hope.

On a different note possibly more hopeful, though family poverty, hardships of Afghan refugees and girl posing as boy to obtain work are still the ingredients, we have "Baran" 2001, another worthwhile filmic experience from Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi ("Children of Heaven" and "Color of Paradise".)

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Official Sites:



Dari | Pushto | English | French | Arabic

Release Date:

27 June 2003 (Afghanistan) See more »

Also Known As:

Afghan Zero nen See more »

Filming Locations:

Kabul, Afghanistan


Box Office


$46,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$51,969, 8 February 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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