Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
The first film to be made by an Afghan after the fall of the Taliban,Osama tells the story of a desperately poor mother who decides to dress her pre-pubescent girl as a boy in order for her to be able to get a job and earn them money enough to live. Osama’s combination of timeliness, political impact and dramatic power made it one of the most-talked about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Set in the early days of Taliban rule and based on a true story, it tells of an 11-year-old girl whose mother sends her out with a short haircut and long robes to find work as a ‘boy’ and support the family. It's a reckless ruse, one with potentially fatal consequences. The girl is taken to the men-only prayer ritual, and attends instruction by a mullah in the proper washing of the male genitals. Everyone notices that this ‘boy’ is different – ‘like a nymph,’ the mullah says... Heartfelt and handsomely made, Osama is full of vignettes showing the depredations of autocratic theocracy. When a Taliban inspector arrives at a hospital where a female doctor is treating an old man, the doctor must quickly don a burqa and claim that she is the wife of her patient's son. We know that a happy ending in reality – indeed, if it is an ending and if it is happy – came only years later, with the overthrow of the Taliban. But the two Afghan films give a lesson that other directors, at Cannes and beyond, could learn from: that life, as it is endured on the vast margins of civilized society, is the most exciting and soul-wrenching form of melodrama. Its dilemmas are not solved by bullets or resolved by bombs.” — Richard Corliss, Time
“A gripping work that graphically displays the Taliban's former grip of terror, Osama is one of the true gems to be unearthed here in Cannes.” — Stephen Garret, indieWIRE