OFFSIDE Director: JAFAR PANAHI IRAN 2006 SUBTITLED COLOUR DTS STEREO 88 MIN. Book cinema tickets FEMALE FOOTBALL FANS BRAVE THE CENSURE OF IRAN’S ISLAMIC LAW TO CHEER ON THEIR NATIONAL TEAM AT A CRUCIAL WORLD CUP QUALIFIER IN THIS BITTERLY AMUSING PROVOCATION FROM DIRECTOR JAFAR PANAHI. A sharp-eyed social critic in his hard-hitting recent films The Circle(looking at the plight of single women) and Crimson Gold(exploring the tensions of social inequality), Panahi here takes a rather lighter approach, playing up the absurdity of a law which denies women even segregated access to matches on the grounds that it would expose them to unseemly male behaviour, yet in the process forces football-mad young women to dress up as boys to get past the turnstiles. Shot on the hoof in Tehran with a cast of nonprofessionals, it sees four very different girls (including one surprisingly butch tomboy) placed in a holding pen at the stadium where they can hear the match unfolding frustratingly out of sight. Venting their grievances on the youthful soldiers on duty opens up a fierce debate where the otherwise well-meaning representatives of authority are at a loss to defend the statute book, and the situation becomes even more ridiculous when one of the gals desperately needs the loo. With Iran’s secular prime minister and spiritual supreme leader recently at odds over the relaxation of the relevant legislation, this is obviously a divisive issue in Iran, where Panahi’s film is unlikely to be cleared for release. A shame really, since it builds to a memorable finale where the outpouring of sporting national pride is powerfully set against the continuing injustice of female exclusion. Trevor Johnston. Director: JAFAR PANAHI IRAN 2006 SUBTITLED COLOUR DTS STEREO 88 MIN.