Osama

Afghanistan: the Taliban have decreed that women can only emerge from home in male company. Desperate for the wherewithal to feed herself, her mother and her 12-year-old daughter, a widow reluctantly decides to dress the child as a boy, sending her out to work as a baker's assistant. Will 'Osama' (as another kid helpfully names the understandably distraught girl) be found out? Certainly there are boys around who find Osama a little timid; more worryingly, some mullahs seem to have their eyes on the beautiful teenager - out of suspicion or lust? This first feature out of post-Taliban Afghanistan takes a straightforward, even unpromisingly obvious premise and transforms it into a film of power, suspense and sophistication. Marina Golbahari, outstanding in a non-pro cast, is wonderfully watchful as the hapless young heroine. But what really raises the film above sentimentality and sensationalism is the rigour with which writer/director Barmak unfolds his narrative. He never feels the need to emphasise that the foundations of this society are built on fundamental injustices; that's a given, which leaves him to explore more fruitful subtleties - a tree-climbing scene, and one in which a mullah teaches sexual hygiene, for example, are especially resonant. Adding to this is Ebrahim Ghafuri's elegant camerawork, which strengthens an already forceful account of innocence unprotected. If Kandahar (by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who helped Barmak make this movie) was more topical, this has a clear-headed intelligence and unflinching honesty all its own.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Duration: 83 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Siddiq Barmak
Screenwriter: Siddiq Barmak
Cast: Marina Golbahari
Khwaja Nader
Arif Herati
Zubaida Sahar
Hamida Refah
Gol Rahman Ghorbandi
Mohamad Haref Harati
Mohamad Nader Khadjeh
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