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Offside (Sous-titres français)
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This internationally award-winning film casually and sometimes caustically uncovers what binds us -- and blinds us -- to the differences between our ways of life in the West with modern day Iran. Fascinating, funny and tragic, it't overcome their shared dreams, their mutual attraction, and ultimately their overriding sense of national pride and humanity.
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Top Customer Reviews
Having said that the movie has a few flaws. Too much of it is spent on the women being penned in so close yet so far from seeing the soccer heroes of Iran take on Bahrain in a crucial World Cup qualifying match. I felt once that was established, they could have shortened those scenes by half.
Also, I had trouble with the ending. It ends abruptly like they either ran out of money or just gave up. I get the statement was made but it was almost the end of the Sopranos TV series-like. All that was missing was the screen going black.
The director, though, does understand the mentality of soccer fans and how be they male or female how the "atmosphere" is more important than the actual game really.
The extras are just an interview with the director which although enlightening I was wasn't prepared to sit through 36 mins of.
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In Iran, women are not permitted to attend men's sporting events, apparently to "protect" them from all the cursing and foul language they might hear emanating from the male fans (so since men can`t restrain or behave themselves, women are forced to suffer. Go figure.). "Offside" tells the tale of a half dozen or so young women who, dressed like men, attempt to sneak into the high-stakes match between Iran and Bahrain that, in 2005, qualified Iran to go to the World Cup (the movie was actually filmed in large part during that game).
"Offside" is a slice-of-life comedy that will remind you of all those great humanistic films ("The Shop on Main Street," "Loves of a Blonde," "Closely Watched Trains" etc.) that flowed out of Communist Czechoslovakia as part of the "Prague Miracle" in the mid 1960's. As with many of those works, "Offside" is more concerned with observing life than with devising any kind of elaborately contrived fictional narrative. Indeed, it is the simplicity of the setup and the naturalism of the style that make the movie so effective.
Once their ruse is discovered, the girls are corralled into a small pen right outside the stadium where they can hear the raucous cheering emanating from the game inside. Stuck where they are, all they can do is plead with the security guards to let them go in, guards who are basically bumbling, good-natured lads who are compelled to do their duty as a part of their compulsory military service. Even most of the men going into the stadium don't seem particularly perturbed at the thought of these women being allowed in. Still the prohibition persists. Yet, how can one not be impressed by the very real courage and spunk displayed by these women as they go up against a system that continues to enforce such a ridiculously regressive and archaic restriction? And, yet, the purpose of these women is not to rally behind a cause or to make a "point." They are simply obsessed fans with a burning desire to watch a soccer game and, like all the men in the country, cheer on their team.
It's hard to tell just how much of the dialogue is scripted and how much of it is extemporaneous, but, in either case, the actors, with their marvelously expressive faces, do a magnificent job making each moment seem utterly real and convincing. Mohammad Kheir-abadi and Shayesteh Irani are notable standouts in a uniformly excellent cast. The structure of the film is also very loose and freeform, as writer/director Jafar Panahi and co-writer Shadmehr Rastin focus for a few brief moments on one or two of the characters, then move smoothly and effortlessly onto others. With this documentary-type approach, we come to feel as if we are witnessing an actual event unfolding in "real time." Very often, it's quite easy for us to forget we're actually watching a movie.
It was a very smart move on the part of the filmmakers to include so much good-natured humor in the film (it's what the Czech filmmakers did as well), the better to point up the utter absurdity of the situation and broaden the appeal of the film for audiences both domestic and foreign. "Offside" is obviously a cry for justice, but it is one that is made all the more effective by its refusal to make of its story a heavy-breathing tragedy. Instead, it realizes that nothing breaks down social barriers quite as efficiently as humor and an appeal to the audience's common humanity. And isn't that what true art is supposed to be all about?
In its own quiet, understated way, "Offside" is one of the great, under-appreciated gems of 2007.
But perhaps best of all, this film ends perfectly. The final scene is simple, powerful, and uplifting. I give it 5 out of 5.
The excitement in Tehran is palpable as a legion of soccer fans anticipate the big match that may send Iran to the World Cup. Buses bring thousands of fans to Tehran's Azadi stadium, among them some dedicated female fans who disguise themselves as men to get in. One young woman, a first-timer with an unconvincing disguise, is caught by the military police and taken to a holding area with other busted women. The women beg and badger their guards to report on the game, heatedly debate soccer strategy, stage the occasional escape, and argue the laws that have put them there with their chief guard, a put-upon but protective man who would rather be back on his farm.
"Offside" unfolds nearly in real time for the 90-minute duration of the game. I was struck by the simplicity of the plot. Half a dozen young women wait, argue, and try to catch glimpses of the game. Nothing happens. "Offside" elaborates on very simple scenes, elucidating the characters of the women and their guards, all of whom are sympathetic and suffering from an absurd situation. The non-professional actors display varying degrees of comfort with the camera, but some convey an admirable authenticity. The film is not preachy, certainly not without humor, but criticizes the social restrictions in Iran through the brief experiences of a group of soccer fans. In Farsi with optional subtitles.
The DVD (Sony 2007): The only bonus feature is an "Interview with Director Jafar Panahi" (36 min). Panahi talks about his inspiration for the film, using soccer as a way to examine restrictions in Iran, difficulties getting the film made and distributed, working with non-professional actors, his choices of camera and time frame, and his optimism that film can effect change in Iran. The film and interview are in Farsi with English or French subtitles.
With that background, one might expect this film to be a fiery condemnation of the treatment of women in Iran. It isn't. It's a mildly comedic look at one corner of the problem, the prohibition against women attending men's soccer matches. In Iran, as in much of the world, soccer is like a national religion, and some women are as eager to worship as any man. To do so, some dress as men and attempt to attend matches undetected.
Offside is the fictional story of a half-dozen such women who are caught offside, as it were, at the crucial qualifying match for the 1996 World Cup. The style is semi-documentary, much of it filmed at the actual match and its aftermath. The acting isn't Oscar quality, but it gets the point across. The characters are engaging, the story builds slowly, mostly in a low-key, matter-of-fact way, into a rousing conclusion that couldn't have been totally planned.
The DVD includes a 36-minute interview with the director, which covers not only the film but the related politics. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (looks fine) and the original Farsi with English (or French) subtitles optional.
Using nonprofessional actors and filming in part during the actual match itself, the film verges more often on farce. A young soldier, for instance, is given custody of one of the female detainees who needs to be escorted to make use of a cavernous men's room, which needs to be cleared and then kept clear of males needing to use it. Unscripted to a great extent, the film's plot must find an arc that incorporates the outcome of a match that had not yet been played when shooting started. The ending, as the soldiers and their prisoners become stopped in the celebrations that fill the streets of Tehran after the match, was also invented on the fly.
Panafi describes much of this in the interview included on the DVD and points out an interesting factor that would not occur to Western audiences - because of restrictions related to gender in present-day Iran, films about women are often limited to situations and stories that take place in public spaces. Though they may seem less than dramatic to Westerners, his attempts to deal with women's issues given restrictions and heavy-handed review boards have been both brave and resourceful.
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