Offside (Director's Cut) (2006)
Interviews-Crew-Director Jafar Panahi
Booklet-Essay by Dr Adrian Danks The Rules of the Game
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Jafar Panahi|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Farsi Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Jafar Panahi is the original Iranian rebel. His films are often heartfelt examinations of the rigours of conservative religion and the injustice of a police state system. Not surprisingly, his movies are officially banned and rarely screened in his native country. He is a wunderkind and is frequently (as here) responsible for producing, co-scripting, directing and editing his films. Offside is nowhere near the searing indictments of The Circle and Crimson Gold yet it tells of another injustice against women in the Islamic country. It does so with humour and realism, shot on the fly with an amateur cast.
In Iran women are not permitted to attend football matches. As the trailer for the film tells us, a recent edict allowing women to enter games lasted all of two days before being repealed.
In 2006 Iran qualified for the World Cup. Panahi used the opportunity to make his film under the very noses of the state. To obtain a filming permit he submitted a false application under the name of a fictional director stating that the movie was to be about a group of men going to the football game. In this simple tale a group of women are arrested for trying to sneak into the qualifying game against Bahrain. Put into a makeshift fenced off prison pen and guarded by conscripted soldiers they question their lot in life, all the while trying to hear the score from the game that is so agonisingly close.
The film is close to documentary in its techniques with handheld camera dominating and a preponderance for close ups on the cast. It was shot effectively in real time. It is a startlingly audacious move to actually film during the World Cup qualifying game as Panahi is able to capture the mood of live sport that is hard to recreate with extras. However, in keeping with the viewpoint of the women we are only given glimpses of the actual game when the women are able to see it. We also don't know the result until the end of the film.
The cast is made up of amateurs. The performances have a realism about them that is instantly appealing even if their acting abilities are at times wayward. The fact that it was shot in a hurry no doubt contributed to some of the variance in performance but it also makes the film more fresh and immediate. Apparently Panahi asked the girls to dress as they would if they were trying to sneak into a football game and filmed them in their chosen disguises. The girls are not identified by name in the film but we learn just a little about each as well as the soldiers who are only guarding them because that is their orders.
In fact this is no polemical film. Both girls and guards are a little bit hazy about the actual reason for the prohibition on women entering games. One guard suggests that it is because the women would be exposed to men cursing. We promise not to listen retorts one girl.
The film is definitely not a grim examination of injustice against women, compared to something like the soul scarring Osama. The girls are alternately sad and angry about missing the game but there are also some funny scenes, such as where a guard has to escort one of the girls to the toilet, only to have her pull a swifty on him. Funny too is the penultimate scene where the girls convince one of the guards to hang outside the window of the prison van to wangle the aerial to get the best reception.
The film received the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2006 and is a enjoyable drama-comedy which proves its point in a somewhat sly and gentle fashion.
Offside is presented on DVD in its original 1.85:1 cinematic aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The film was shot almost in real time under the noses of the authority so it is to be expected that it may not reach Hollywood cinematic standards. In fact, apart from one glaring problem the transfer is pretty good. The colours (particularly the red, white and green of the Iranian flag) are clear and bright although it must be said that the majority of the film takes place in the drab concrete exterior of the stadium. The flesh tones are accurate and the contrasts are good.
The IMDB listing of the movie suggests that it was shot on 35mm film, however, in an interview Panahi says that they used a digital camera so that it could be more easily concealed. The film looks to me to be digital and there is some noise and slight image problems which suggest the digital medium.
There is one larger problem with the transfer - aliasing. Two of the girls wear stripey shirts and these are constantly on the move. It is very noticeable and a bit of a disappointment. Ultimately, we are so swept up with the characters and the flow of the action that the problem eventually slips away.
The sound for Offside is Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224Kb/s.
The limited soundtrack is appropriate for what is really a chamber piece. The audio sync appears fine. The subwoofer does come into play during the crowd scenes and the glimpses of the game. There is little music in the film except, memorably, the unofficial anthem Ey Iran at the end.
The dialogue appears clear and there are no problems with the soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
The original trailer is a brief fun look at the film.
The interview with Panahi is almost 20 minutes long. It is a fascinating discussion about the origin, filming and background to the movie. Panahi does not speak English and the translation is a bit halting (there are no subtitles) so listening does require some concentration. He talks about his own daughters attempt to get into a football game and describes the joy of working with an amateur cast - the girls were students and the guards construction workers. The cast worked without rehearsals to maintain the freshness of their roles. He explains that military service is compulsory in Iran hence the ordinariness of the guards. He ends by stressing that in his films no-one is truly bad and even the authorities are acting because of a belief in the system - it is the laws that are a problem, he suggests, not the people enforcing them.
In fact, Panahi says that he tried to get to the legislative basis of the prohibition of women at the games. He found nothing leading him to conclude it is an unwritten law. Interestingly, he also points out that no shot in the film is taken inside the makeshift prison pen keeping us, the viewer, outside of their condition.
A worthy listen.
The booklet essay by Dr Adrian Danks is entitled The Rules of the Game alluding to the Renoir film of the same name. Like the French in that film both the girls and the guards are trapped by rules which they are bound to follow without really knowing why they do so. It is an interesting read, following Panahi's origins as an assistant director to the great Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami through to his own various award winning films. He gives an open and clear analysis of the film and whilst acknowledging its faults finds much to praise in the film.
The film does not seem to be available yet in Region 1. Amazon has it as a pending title. It is available in Region 2 with the interview (assuming it is the same - this release describes it as an Australian exclusive) and a biography of Panahi. The Region 4 seems the best bet.
Offside is a well made enjoyable film that deserves a wider audience.
The transfer is not perfect but generally is acceptable particularly given the circumstances of the making of the film.
The extras aren't huge but are valuable nonetheless.
|DVD||Pioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX - SR603|
|Speakers||Onkyo 6.1 Surround|