Survival Skills: Osama & Goodbye,
Director Siddiq Barmakt takes us
back into the horrors of Taliban controlled Afghanistan in "Osama," the
first film to come out the country since the regime ended.
Apart from its historic interest, the bleak story offers
good opportunities for high school and college classroom
discussions of religious extremism as well as misogyny.
The well-paced story starts when an unnamed girl about 12
(Marina Golbahari) and her widowed mother (Zubaida Sahar) get
swept up in a women's rights demonstration and Taliban soldiers,
using water hoses and live ammunition, scatter the crowd clad
in gold and blue burkhas. Under the Taliban, women could neither
work nor go out without a male companion.
The two take shelter with a street urchin, Espandi (Arif Herati).
He's first seen taking money from a Western cameraman, who
later is sentenced to death for daring photograph around town.
When the Taliban close a hospital (and take the women doctors
to jail), the widow, who secretly has been working there, is
unable to make a living. Concocting a dangerous plot, the mother
and old grandmother cut the girl's hair, dress her as a boy,
and get her a job with a kindly shopkeeper, who's in on the
secret, until she is rounded up with the other boys ordered
into a Taliban school. Espandi knows who she is but instead
of turning her in, becomes her School scenes are especially
suspenseful, as time and time again, the girl narrowly escapes
detection. Her ultimate exposure is terrifying and her punishment
is devastating. There is not much overt violence in the film,
but it constantly bubbles under the surface.
Much of the force of the film comes from the performances
by the young inexperienced actors, recruited from the streets
of Kabul. Most especially riveting is Golbahari's terrified
young girl. The gifted cinematographer Ebrahim Ghafuri infuses
the film with poignant images. (82 minutes, NR)
The perfect antidote to this harrowing
movie is "Goodbye,
Lenin!" This comedy is about the fall of the East Berlin
wall, and how a young man keeps his ailing mother alive by
making her think it hasn't fallen at all. (121 minutes; R.)#