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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Offside is an Iranian dramedy that explores the gender inequalities that affect that country's young soccer fans. It moves slowly and comes with subtitles, so younger viewers might be bored. But the story -- girls disguise themselves as boys to enter the stadium, where no women are allowed -- might appeal to teens. When they're discovered, the girls are penned up until a bus arrives to take them to jail. There are discussions of political and legal oppression of women, as well as past demonstrations against the state. Characters (soldiers, a teenage girl and a young boy) smoke cigarettes.
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What's the story?
A father searches anxiously for his daughter among the buses and cars stopped in traffic en route to Tehran's Azadi Stadium in OFFSIDE. It's 2006, and, like most Iranians, the girl (Sima Mobarak-Shahi) wants more than anything to see her team play in the World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain. But because she's a girl, she's denied entrance to the stadium by law. So she's sneaking in dressed as a boy, hiding from her father, the police, and the boys on her bus. Nervous about her deception, she is discovered at the front gate of the stadium and then marched to a holding pen located just outside the playing field. Here she and the other female detainees -- along with their guards -- can listen to the match. The girls find that they have a special camaraderie based on a shared sense of outrage at how they're treated (they're not allowed inside, they're told, because they're not allowed to hear men using rowdy language). They're duly impressed when one girl (Mahnaz Zabihi) arrives at the pen in handcuffs -- she was discovered in a captain's box inside the arena, having been nervy enough to steal and wear an officer's uniform. Most of the others wear baggy pants, caps, and Iranian flag-colored face paint to disguise themselves as the very (male) figures who would keep them out.
Is it any good?
What's most striking about this wonderful film is its celebration of the girls' resilience in the face of such daunting obstacles. Energetic, generous, and full of idealism, they imagine themselves in another world, where they can participate fully in all aspects of their culture, feeling deep national pride (in their soccer team, anyway) even as the nation restrains them. Sharing sadness and joy during a few short hours, the girls -- and a misfit boy arrested for carrying firecrackers -- find hope in each other.
Like Jafar Panahi's other films, this movie creates a natural-seeming rhythm, so viewers are soon immersed in a number of experiences. Offside follows a series of characters, most unnamed and all connected by events, desires, and circumstances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about oppression and inequality in Offside. How are women's rights different in Iran than they are in the United States? Where did the restrictions on Iran's women come from? How does the movie show the effects of these restrictions on the younger generation?
How does the movie represent a kind of "on the ground" view of how oppression affects ordinary people?
Is it inevitable that teenagers, no matter where they're from, will resist limits on what they can do and say?
How can sports build community, even in stressful circumstances? Can you think of other movies that have addressed that idea?
- In theaters: March 23, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: August 28, 2007
- Cast: Mahnaz Zabihi, Safar Samandar, Sima Mobarak Shahi
- Director: Jafar Panahi
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, and some thematic elements.
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