A new movie, Osama, shows life under Afghanistan’s Taliban government — the society that radical Muslims around the world will emulate if ever given the chance. This from the New York Post, with thanks to the many people who alerted me to this film.
In Dari, with English subtitles. Running time: 82 minutes. Not rated (adult themes). At the Lincoln Plaza and the Union Square.
IT’S amazing enough that “Osama” was made at all: This film about the oppression of women in the Taliban era was shot amidst the ruins of a Kabul that is still threatened by violence and general chaos.
That it is such a powerful and indeed beautiful film is simply extraordinary.
Everyone is at least vaguely aware of the crazed misogynistic bigotry of the Taliban, the fundamentalist peasant militia that ruled much of Afghanistan until its overthrow in late 2001.
But “Osama” uses a real-life story and non-professional actors from the streets of Kabul to make the medieval horrors of Taliban rule devastatingly, viscerally real.
Written and directed by Siddiq Barmak, a Russian-trained Afghan filmmaker who fled Kabul after the Taliban takeover, “Osama” tells the tale of a 12-year-old girl (Marina Golbahari) forced to take a terrible risk to save her family.
The girl’s mother — a widow like so many Afghan women after two decades of war — is a nurse with a job in a decrepit hospital.
But she loses her job under the Taliban, which bans all women from working and even from going outside the home unless in the company of a male relative.
Faced with starvation, mother and granddaughter come up with the idea of cutting the little girl’s hair and sending her out to work disguised as a boy.
Using the common Afghan boy’s name of Osama and wearing her father’s cut-down clothing, she gets work in a milk shop.
But when Osama makes mistakes during all-male prayers, the Taliban take her (and a nosy beggar boy who knows her real identity) to a schools to be trained in Islam and soldiering.
Sometimes the Osama character seems a little too stupid and naive to believe, and there are moments when the storytelling feels surprisingly crude given both the first-time director’s ambitions (the opening sequence is a film within a film — supposedly documentary video footage shot by a foreigner) and the elegance of the photography.
Yet the calm, restrained way “Osama” depicts the Gestapo-like ubiquity and viciousness of the Taliban — whether they are abusing a bicyclist for letting his female passenger show her toes, or hammering on the door of a house where women are holding a secret wedding party — makes it all the more effective.