"Offside" is about breaking the rules that can break you

Offside is a humorous and socially aware film that exposes what many female football aficionados do in Iran in order to attend the sport events of which they are not permitted into. The film is directed by Jafar Panahi and it tells the story of a group of six women who are caught sneaking into the Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to see the football match that will either qualify or eliminate Iran from participating in the Germany 2006 World Cup. Although there are women who are well familiarized with the process of deceiving security and entering these sport events without being noticed, it is often the first timers that end up detained by the stadium soldiers. Besides perceiving the irrationality of these regulations one is also able witness the reality of Iran’s economic status. The need for Iran’s people to obtain money in whatever way possible is witnessed through the ticket vendor’s corrupt actions. In the beginning of the film the main girl convinces the ticket vendor to sell her a ticket, thus he only agrees if she buys the ticket for a higher price and buys a poster of the Iranian player Ali Daei.
Acquiring a ticket for the football match is just the beginning of a day that results in her being caught and taken into the detention section of the stadium. This section is where they keep the other women that fail to succeed in their attempt to watch the game from the aisles. Soon she becomes acquainted with several others some which mock the circumstances that they are in and repeatedly ask the soldiers why they can’t watch the game from inside with the men. At this question one of the soldiers responds that women are not allowed in the stadium because they will be exposed to cursing and activities that are immoral for woman. Although they are unaware of it, both the soldiers and the detained women are prisoners of a higher order, one which they are forced to obey and respect. For the soldiers this higher order is “the chief” which they mentioned constantly throughout the film almost as if he were and omniscient entity whose wrath had the power of something more than prolonging the duration of their military service. When one of the detainees is taken to the restroom a soldier ties the poster of Ali Daei around her face like a mask and asks her to cover her eyes so that she will not see the words written on the walls of the restroom. Since there are only male restrooms at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium the soldier makes sure there are no other men inside before letting the girl in and later stands at the door so that no one else will enter. At seeing the opportunity to escape the girl runs out of the restroom and into the crowd of fans, the soldier then returns only to tell the others that he has lost the girl.
After some time the girl returns only because she felt sorry for one of the soldier’s cattle who would have been left unattended if his military duty was prolonged for loosing one of the detainees. In the time that the soldiers and the detained women spend together they realize that there is no real difference between them and that their passion for football is exactly the same. Perhaps under different circumstance they would have both watched the game from inside the stadium and cheered for their nation’s team. As one notices most of the characters in the film are young adults which brings to mind the reality that the majority of the old generation seeks to keep things how they are and it will be up to the Iran’s youth to make the social changes they want to see. The film was executed in a simple style without special effects or exaggerated situations in doing so Jafar Panahi gives the film a realistic feel. Also the lack of musical score in most of the film is replaced by the atmosphere’s actual sounds which are people’s voices, drums and the sounds of the stadium’s cheerful crowd. Most of the conversations between the characters appear to be authentic and unembellished. Towards the end when the girls are being taken away from the stadium and are inside the van one of the girls begins to cry and when asked why she says that one of her friends died in the Iran-Japan match, the victim was one of the seven fans that was trampled to death. By bringing an actual occurrence into the film Jafar Panahi makes the passion these girls have for football more than real. Offside is a film about doing anything for what one is passionate about, its about breaking the rules that can break you and about realizing that the key you had been looking for was perhaps always in your pocket.
Rating: A

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