ShareThis Page
Home

Compelling 'Osama' offers harsh take on survival tactics

| Thursday, March 18, 2004

Writer-director Siddiq Barmak's "Osama," the first movie to be made in, and released from, Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 1996, depicts a tragic childhood.

A girl of 12, eventually called Osama (Marina Golbahari), lives with her widowed mother (Zubaida Sahar) and elderly grandmother (Hamida Refah) and works with her mom at a hospital.

When the Taliban takes over and jails the women doctors, the film's focus family is forbidden even to leave their home without a male chaperone. With no male to escort them or earn food for them, they're trapped in the house with no means of support.

The grandmother suggests they cut the child's hair and disguise her as a boy so she can work for a shopkeeper.

The girl is terrified, a situation exacerbated when she's rounded up with dozens of boys and sent off to a Taliban school, which is like a rough-and-tumble orphanage.

Nicknamed Osama for her own protection by a fellow captive named Espandi (Arif Herati), she's taunted as an effeminate boy by her peers and rendered all the more vulnerable to exposure.

Barmak's film has thematic similarities to Majid Majidi's "Baran" (2001), wherein a 17-year-old Iranian disguises herself as a man to earn money for her family as a construction worker, and Agnieszka Holland's "Europa, Europa" (1991), in which a Jewish boy bids for survival in a Hitler youth camp by keeping himself covered and passing as a non-Jew.

"Osama's" portrayal of a sensitive adolescent's desperate bid for survival makes other current films about young people, including "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" and "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," look ludicrous beyond acceptability even as empty-headed entertainment.

"Osama" won the Golden Globe as best foreign language film. It was Afghanistan's contender for Oscar consideration in the same category but did not make the final slate of five nominees.

Beginning with young Golbahari's remarkable work, everything about it is compelling, most of all a shot of hospital workers scrambling out of the building during a Taliban raid.

A motionless camera outside records the image of one lame child, hobbling behind the fleeing crowd, unable to keep up. Additional Information:

Details

'Osama'

Director: Siddiq Barmak.

Stars: Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements.

Now playing: Manor in Squirrel Hill.

Three and a half stars

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me