Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Teenage girls, all ardent soccer fans, masquerade as boys to crash the Iran–Bahrain game at Tehran stadium in the unexpectedly funny Offside. There may in fact be no actual law against women attending football matches in Iran. It’s just that men have decided that male behaviour in the stadium is unfit for female consumption. Iranian director Jafar Panahi filmed his story around the actual World Cup qualifier and his comic confrontation of male intransigence and female resourcefulness has the documentary texture of real experience.
“Panahi reveals unsuspected comic gifts barely visible in his dramatic festival winners The White Balloon, The Circle and Crimson Gold. Ensemble acting by the non-professional cast relies on each girl to embody a different type, from the gentle schoolgirl doing something naughty to the masculine toughie who looks and talks like a boy. Each is so comically down-to-earth that she effortlessly grabs audience sympathy. The two main soldiers work as sympathetically-viewed counterpoints who, try as they might, are unable to logically defend the male supremacist laws of their country. The film’s great virtue is its spontaneity, very different from the careful control of the director’s earlier work, but very much in synch with the hypercharged stadium atmosphere.” — Deborah Young, Variety
“Offside is comic and exuberant, bold and resilient, but it is also acutely sensitive to the tensions simmering in a society where young people, only too aware of the possibilities offered by a globalised world, are asking when they too will be brought into the game.” — Julian Graffy, Sight & Sound