This atmospheric comedy from Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi isn't being watched legally in his native land.
Offside was filmed during a World Cup qualifying match in Tehran with amateur thespians in hand-held, edgy fashion. It is a smart, piquant expose on a country which hasn't allowed women to attend soccer games since 1979.
The screenplay, partially concocted by Panahi, makes the most of incidents from girls invigorated by sport trying to sneak in and enjoy the event, or face confrontation with the police.
Hardly condescending or didactic, the very well-paced movie braces one from the outset when mention is made about the "transgressors" from a bus on its way to the match.
One (Sima Mobarak Shahi) is caught by the authorities and penned outside the stadium with other such illegals. The girls are snappy, ripping with teasing and arguments into the "oppressors", one of which is more than a bit dopey.
In a short running time, a gritty spark of a film that speaks that emerges with altruism. Nearly everyone on view develops some viewer empathy, even those reflecting on the few days left they have in the army.
Whether a ride to the police station or a trip to the lavatory, Offside can often be witty and intimate, though not losing sight of the issues at hand. Especially, this "prohibition", which is acknowledged as not making sense. It has an immediacy for its time and place, putting one in the position of a group of high-minded girls as their emotions during a buzzing crowd can be sudden and irksome.
Rarely galling, but nearly always amusing and coherent, Panahi's picture is busy, detailed, affecting entertainment, catching the ambiguous "feel" of an important nationalistic event.