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Recommendation: Offside, Persepolis

December 11, 2008

Taking a break from the animated, the action-oriented, and the silly, I would like to recommend two very good foreign films that I watched recently.  Coincidentally, both of them Iranian.  


Title: Offside

Summary: In Iran, it is illegal for women to attend sporting events because of the concern that they will be negatively influenced by the harsh language and brash demenor of the men there.  Set (and mostly filmed) during the 2005 World-Cup Qualifying game between Iran and Baharain (that’s soccer, for those of you who don’t know), this film follows several women who try and fail to sneak into the historic game, and then men assigned to guard them.  This film is banned in Iran.

Genre: foriegn film, independent film, philosophical, women’s rights, cultural 

Audience: Anyone who appreciates a good foreign film; anyone who enjoys learning about other cultures.  

Occasion: In the mood for a somewhat serious film, with moments of humor and the potential to start interesting discussions.  

Watch every minute? It’s subtitled, so I’d recommend it.  (The spoken language is Farsi.)

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: For most people, small screen is your only option with this one (I saw in on a big screen, but it was for a class).

Why I liked it: This past quarter, my fiance was taking a class called “Reading Film.”  Ostensibly an English class, what it really amounted to was him seeing a wide variety of interesting films that he (and therefore we) might not otherwise have been exposed to.  Offiside was one of those films, and he insisted that I come along with him to see it. 

With all of the negative news we get about Iran in this country, it was enlightening to see a film that portrayed the country positively.  The director, Jafar Panahi, worked to protray the controversial topics of the film in a way that was merely informative, and non-judgemental.  No matter your stance on women’s rights, or Iranian law, or soccer, Panahi leaves the film open to interpretation.  It’s more of a discussion peice than anything else, but that all was enough to get it banned in Iran, as I noted above.  

And true to form, it’s possible to feel sympathy with each of the characters in the movie: The women who argue in vain to be allowed to see the game; the soldiers who are set to guard them, but who would rather be somewhere, anywhere else.  It is even possible to understand, even if you disagree, with the laws that keep the women from attending the games.  All in all, a very interesting, informative movie.  

“Own it” vs. “Once is Enough”: I can’t say that I would ever own this movie, but it would be interesting to see it again, if only to pick up on the things that you always miss the first time through.  

If you liked…: Shall We Dance? (and I’m refering to the original Japanese movie, not the recent American remake), Persepolis, Bend it Like Beckham


Title: Persepolis

Summary: Through the eyes of a young woman growing up in Iran, we witness a the revolution, and the subsequence violence and hardship, that forever changed the face of Iran and the lives of it’s citizens.  

Genre: foreign film, independent film, animation, philosophical, cultural

Audience: The film is subtitled, sometimes violent, and doesn’t really hold back.  I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children.  

Occasion: In the mood for a somewhat serious film, with moments of humor and the potential to start interesting discussions.  

Watch every minute? It’s subtitled, so I’d vote yes.  (The spoken language is French.)

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Either.

Why I liked it: This thought-provoking film tells the story of a young woman growing up in Tehran, and her take on the situations that arise in her life.  The original revolution took place when she was a young girl, and by the time she was a young teen, her parents decided it would be safer for her to be out of the country.  It follows her trials as she grows up, at home and abroad, facing the prejudices that come of being an Iranian woman, and struggling to create some sort of cultural identity for herself.  

The most powerful aspect of this film is the woman’s relationship with her family, and espeically her grandmother.  They are the glue that keeps her indentity from disintigrating, even when she is lost and confused, wandering through Europe in search of herself.  

“Own it” vs. “Once is Enough”: I’m still unsure if I will watch this movie again, but I might own it because I think that others should see it, and having it on hand is the easiest way to ensure that I can share it.  

If you liked…: Offside, and presumably others, but I can’t think of them at the moment.  

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