An adolescent girl (Marina Golbahari) is persuaded by her widowed mother (Zubaida Sahar) under duress to have her hair cut, dress as a boy and go by the name of Osama in order to be able to get work so she can support her mother and grandmother. She endures terror, humiliation and discovery until the Taliban threatens to execute her.
Review by Andrew L. Urban
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Golden Globes and recipient of the UNESCO Fellini Silver Medal, OSAMA has the wallop of a political statement that has personalised the inhuman regime of the disgraced Taliban. At first you might think it's a documentary, I did, but you soon realise that while it is factual, it is a drama that simply re-enacts the abysmal experience of Afghanistan under the Taliban. It is a moving, involving work that constantly cries with the anguish of misguided religious extremism as it degrades a society.
Anyone already soured by fundamentalism of any form of religion will find this film firm evidence of the evils of it.
But there are shards of light that we can look to, like the boy who is the first character we see on screen, later to be a danger to 'Osma' with his knowledge of her real gender. As he gets to know her a bit better, his change in attitude is so powerful it may bring tears to your eyes. This, for me, is the moment of hope in the film, suggesting that even the most misguided and self absorbed may be able to evolve to a higher plane of humanity through understanding.
The film is succint and technically accomplished, enough to make us concentrate on the characters and the story. When the cameraman who is first unseen is revealed, he is being summarily tried for daring to photograph the goings on. This, too, is a powerful statement, exposing the barbarity of a people who corrupt their attempt at godliness with the void of inhumanity. They shall not sit by the hand of Allah, they shall not be martyrs, their souls are rotten and they are a perversity to godliness. Someone should tell them.
There's a mini doco and interview with director Siddiq Barmak on the DVD.
Published November 4, 2004
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OSAMA: DVD (M15+)
(Afghanistan / Japan / Ireland)
CAST: Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar
DIRECTOR: Siddiq Barmak
SCRIPT: Siddiq Barmak
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Mino doco + interview with director Siddiq Barmak
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: November 3, 2004