Osama

Winner of the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the first movie to be produced in Afghanistan since the Taliban first seized power in 1996 is a shattering portrayal of the shocking treatment of Afghan women under that nightmare regime. Even though the Taliban strictly forbids women to leave their houses unaccompanied by a man, never mind practice...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Winner of the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the first movie to be produced in Afghanistan since the Taliban first seized power in 1996 is a shattering portrayal of the shocking treatment of Afghan women under that nightmare regime. Even though the Taliban strictly forbids women to leave their houses unaccompanied by a man, never mind practice medicine, an Afghan mother (Zubaida Sahar) and her 12-year-old daughter (Marina Golbahari) sneak into the local hospital in order to attend to the Taliban-ruled village's poor, sick and dying. The hospital is running out of money and supplies, and the mother's own situation is equally dire: She hasn't received her wages in four months, and she sees no way of feeding her daughter and aged mother. The menfolk have all been killed in the series of wars that have torn Afghanistan to pieces over the past decades, and like so many Afghan widows forbidden to work, she faces the very real prospect of starving to death. When the hospital finally closes, the mother hits on a bold, desperate plan: She'll shave the young girl's head and try to pass her off as a boy. Accompanied by her "son," the mother can now leave the house, provided she's covered from head-to-toe by a burka; more importantly, the boy can go to work. But it's a dangerous ploy. If the Taliban discover the deception, the girl will most certainly be arrested and possibly killed. After only a few days of working a village grocer, a mullah sweeps through the area, hauling the village boys off to the local Madrassa where, in addition to the Koran, they'll be taught military maneuvers and — most frightening to the young girl — how to properly bathe. Luckily, she's befriended by a street urchin (Arif Herati) who knows her secret and who dispels the other boys' suspicions by telling them that her name is "Osama." A change of name and a suit of clothes, however, may not be enough. Even without considering the years of cultural suppression that preceded the making of this film, it's an extraordinary achievement, filled with unforgettable sights and haunting images. In a sequence that recalls nothing so much as the Odessa steps sequence in BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, a crowd of protesting Afghan widows in bright blue burkas are scattered by Taliban gunfire and thrown into cages like animals. Released internationally just when U.S. foreign policy has become a muddle of doublespeak and dubious motives, the film serves as a potent reminder of what conditions were like in Afghanistan before the U.S. bombing campaign ended the Taliban's reign of terror, and, as such, its timing couldn't be any better.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Winner of the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the first movie to be produced in Afghanistan since the Taliban first seized power in 1996 is a shattering portrayal of the shocking treatment of Afghan women under that nightmare regime. Even though t… (more)

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