Offside In Theaters
Many Iranian girls love soccer as much as their countrymen and sport fans all over the world but, they are prevented by law from attending live soccer matches in their country. Inspired by the day when his own daughter was refused entry to a soccer stadium in Iran, Jafar Panahi's "Offside" follows a day in the life of a group of Iranian girls attempting to watch their team's World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain at the stadium in Tehran.
A disparate group of girls, united only by their desire to see their beloved team play live and in-person, disguise themselves in myriad ways, risking arrest to try to get into the game. The girls are either caught trying to get in or are spotted in the crowd once they make it past the entry guards, and all are taken to a holding area on the upper level of the stadium, where they are tortured by being able to hear the roar of the crowd without being able to see what is happening in the match.
The young women, who range from timid to tomboy, are guarded by a group of naïve young soldiers who would rather be watching the game themselves, out with their girlfriends or at home looking after their sheep.
The soldiers and their prisoners are so close in age, and the girls' crimes so harmless, that they have a hard time maintaining their adversarial roles.
As they wait out the game, the young men interact with and befriend the generally far more savvy women. One girl is a tomboy from the city who taunts the guards about their country ways. Another young woman relates the adventure that got her caught to cheers from the other girls - she stole an officer's uniform to disguise herself but, made the mistake of sitting in the wrong chair in the VIP enclosure.
One young soldier, who is as much a fan as his captives, is persuaded into shouting out the highlights of the game as he watches through a gate. When he is scolded by a slightly superior officer, his punishment is being forced to escort one of the girls to the bathroom. Fearful of how the men in the stadium might react, he punches out the eyes of a cardboard player's poster to make a mask for his prisoner, so she won't offend any men on the way. One girl turns out not to be a soccer fan at all but, has her own sentimental reasons for wanting to be at the game in honor of a friend.
As the game nears it's end, the girls are rounded up in a van to be transported to jail, along with another young man who was caught setting off firecrackers in the stadium. The soldier in charge is persuaded to turn on the radio so they can hear the final moments of the game on the way and, when Iran defeats Bahrain to win the qualifying match, the day ends happily for all - "Offside."
STARRING: Sima Mobarak Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayesteh Irani, Mohammad Kheyrabadi, Ida Sadeghi
DIRECTOR: Jafar Panahi
STUDIO: Sony Classics
RATING: PG (For language throughout, and some thematic elements)
Wild About Movies Grade: C+