OFFSIDE (Jafar Panahi, 2006)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, September 18, 7:00, and Sunday, September 30, 2:30, $12
Series runs September 16-30
For nearly thirty years, Iranian cinema has been an integral part of the international film world, with stellar works by such directors as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Bahman Farmanara, Jafar Panahi, and others. One thing many of these films have in common is cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari, who has shot some of the preeminent Iranian films, offering a new vision of the politically troubled country. MoMA is honoring the former photojournalist’s career, which includes more than five dozen feature films, with “The Eye of Iran: Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari,” a series consisting of twelve of his major works, running September 16-30. On September 18 and 20, MoMA will be screening Panahi’s Offside, a brilliant look at gender disparity in modern-day Iran, filmed on location in and around Tehran’s Azadi Stadium with a talented cast of nonprofessional actors. 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 attempting 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 2012’s This Is Not a Film. “The Eye of Iran: Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari” continues with such other Iranian films as Farhadi’s Oscar-winning A Separation, Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Makhmalbaf’s Gabbeh, and Kalari’s Cloud and the Rising Sun, his debut as a writer-director.