Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: In Iran, women are officially banned from men’s sporting events. Several young women try to pass as men and are arrested at a major soccer match.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2006
Duration: 88 min
Language: Iran/Farsi
MPAA: PG
Director: Jafar Panahi
Writer: Jafar Panahi, Shadmehr Rastin
Starring: Sima Mobarak-Shahi, Shayesteh Irani, Ayda Sadeqi, Golnaz Farmani, Mahnaz Zabihi, Nazanin Sediq-zadeh, Melika Shafahi, Safdar Samandar, Mohammad Kheir-abadi, Masoud Kheymeh-kabood, Mohammed-Reza Gharebaghi, Hadi Saeedi, Masoud Gheyas-vand, Ali Baradari, Ali Roshan

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Offside

In Iran, women are officially banned from men’s sporting events. When Iran defeated Bahrain to qualify for the World Cup, major portions of this film were shot during the actual game.

We meet several young women trying to pass as men, sneaking into the event and hoping that they won’t be noticed. Six of them are arrested, and the action follows them as they are detained in the stadium, begging the soldiers holding the small group to let them watch the game. (One of the actresses was actually stopped by a real policeman and had to run away during filming.)

The young enlisted men are not completely unsympathetic, but they have their orders, explaining that men and women are not permitted to sit together and cautioning that they cannot be exposed to men cursing and swearing. The story is a simple one, focused on the discrimination these women face, so much so that they have been forced to dress as men to experience the game they love.

There is no lesbian content, just a gender bending group of Iranian women, who seem to do this only for soccer matches. The film was denied approval for screening in Iran (although it is popular on the dvd black market), and it was only made because the director turned in a fake script to gain permission to shoot. In the dvd extras, director Jafar Panahi explains that he once snuck his daughter into a soccer game.  (AB)