Filmed on location in and around Tehran’s Azadi Stadium and featuring a talented cast of nonprofessional actors, Jafar Panahi’s Offside is a brilliant look at gender disparity in modern-day Iran. Although it is illegal for girls to go to soccer games in Iran — because, among other reasons, the government does not think it’s appropriate for females to be in the company of screaming men who might be cursing and saying other nasty things — many try to get in, facing arrest if they get caught. Offside is set during an actual match between Iran and Bahrain; a win will put Iran in the 2006 World Cup. High up in the stadium, a small group of girls, dressed in various types of disguises, have been captured and are cordoned off, guarded closely by some soldiers who would rather be watching the match themselves or back home tending to their sheep. The girls, who can hear the crowd noise, beg for one of the men to narrate the game for them. Meanwhile, an old man is desperately trying to find his daughter to save her from some very real punishment that her brothers would dish out to her for shaming them by trying to get into the stadium. Despite its timely and poignant subject matter, Offside is a very funny film, with fine performances by Sima Mobarak Shahi, Shayesteh Irani, Ida Sadeghi, Golnaz Farmani, Mahnaz Zabihi, and Nazanin Sedighzadeh as the girls and M. Kheymeh Kabood as one of the soldiers. The film was selected for the 2006 New York Film Festival, but Panahi, who was supposed to attend the opening, experienced visa problems when trying to come to America and was later arrested by the Iranian government for his support of the opposition Green movement; he was sentenced to six years in prison and given a twenty-year ban on making new films, something he comments on ingeniously in This Is Not a Film. Offside is screening at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the ongoing series “50 Years of the New York Film Festival,” which continues with such NYFF vets as Abdellatif Kechich’s Black Venus and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Individual tickets for the fiftieth anniversary of the New York Film Festival, which runs September 28 through October 14, go on sale to the general public on September 9.