Sort of an Iranian "Bend it Like Beckham", Jafar Panahi's "Offside" is a bit of girl power drama with a touch of comedy that focuses on a popular passtime in Iran: watching the national soccer tournaments. However, despite massive popularity, women are not allowed to see the games, despite the fact that the stadiums certainly seem like they could fit tens of thousands. The film opens with one girl made up in face paint and her hair tucked in, trying to fit in on a bus full of men. The fact that she huddles inward instead of cheering outward like the others doesn't exactly help her disguise, as one boy notices her and indifferently advises her against going any further. In the stadium lot, a scalper tries to rip her off, aware of her situation.
Unfortunately, the girl, despite her best efforts to try and spot a secure route into the stadium with the rest of the crowds, manages to get spotted by one of the guards and hauled off to a holding cell that's just off the field. The game rages on in the background as the soldiers try to sneak glances through the gate while keeping the other eye on the small pen that contains a few women who were plucked from the crowds. Unable to contain their excitement, one guard eventually decides to share the game stats with everyone else, acting as commentator.
While not heavy on plot, the film manages to get the attention thanks to solid performances, dialogue that doesn't seem scripted and occasional instances of conflict, such as one scene where one of the women is lead to the men's bathroom, only to make an escape into the crowds. The women also don't take the situation sitting down, protesting with the soldiers, who respond that they are only doing their jobs.
"Offside" is a fairly simple tale, but it gets its energy from the performances and the almost documentary-like feel. Overall, "Offside" remains an entertaining tale of young women standing up for their rights.
VIDEO: "Offside" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality isn't without some minor concerns, but the film generally looked great. Sharpness and detail varied slightly, but while some scenes did appear a tad hazy, the majority of the film looked crisp and clean, with respectable detail and definition. Some minor artifacting and slight edge enhancement was spotted, but these flaws were hardly noticable and seen only in a few scenes. Colors looked rather subdued, but this seemed to be the intentional look of the picture.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Persian/Farsi, with English subtitles. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue. The surrounds were used for mild crowd ambience in some scenes, but often remained silent.
EXTRAS: Interview with the director.
Final Thoughts: "Offside" remains an enjoyable drama/comedy focusing on a group of young women pushing for their rights. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, but minimal extras. Rent it.
The Film B