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Cast: Sima Mobarak-Shahi, Shayesteh Irani, Ayda Sadeqi, Golnaz Farmani, Mahnaz Zabihi, Nazanin Sediq-zadeh
In Iran, women are officially banned from men's sporting events. In June 2005, the Iran's national soccer team has an important game against Bahrain in the Azadi Stadium for the qualification of the World Cup. A group of Iranian girls and lovers of soccer dresses like boys and unsuccessfully attempts to enter in the stadium being arrested.
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Charming, quirky, funny, and compelling indie with a lot of heart, Offside is a wonderful film that tells the story of a group of Iranian girls who attempts to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium dressed as boys 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 so the women are held in a fenced off area as they wait to taken to the Vice Squad.
While waiting they continue to hear reports of the game as they stand outside the stadium. Even the guards get a little intrigued as to the event taking place. What makes the film entertaining is that while it revolves around the football game, at the center of the story is a character study.
We never learn the names of the characters and thatís okay. We donít need to. The story director Panahi is telling doesnít require us to know any more information other than why they love this sport, which honestly, doesnít really need an explanation either. All the characters are good natured, which actually surprises you because there are certainly preconceived notions about Iraq that may lead people to think that the country is void of compassion.
But the guards are not cruel. They have no intentions of harming the women. Theyíre simply following orders and acting accordingly. The guards themselves provide some comedic moments as well as they try to maintain order with the excitable girls, while also getting drawn into the hype surrounding the game.
The girls develop a bond with one another as they wait on the side of the stadium. At the same time, their personalities are contagious as they come off engaging to the guards. While taking the girls to the Vice Squad, they continue listening to the game on a small radio that has a damaged antenna. But with the insistence from the girls, the guard fixes it but has to keep half his body out of the window.
By the end of the film, we learn much to the girls and even the guardís delight, that the Iraqi team made to the finals. As the girls celebrate, so does the rest of the community. Driving through the city, they get bombarded with locals exuding national pride. As the city dances, the girls join in with the guards and they all dance together. Itís a sweet moment. Offside is a gem, and one that many should seek out.