I can forgive but I cannot forget
‘Osama’ – Synopsis
A 12-year-old Afghan girl and her mother lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male “legal companion.” With her husband and brother dead, killed in battle, there is no one left to support the family. Without being able to leave the house, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. Feeling that she has no other choice, she disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called ‘Osama,’ the girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from finding out her true identity. Inspired by a true story, Osama is the first entirely Afghan film shot since the fall of the Taliban.
Native title: اسامه
Countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands
Director: Siddiq Barmark
Writer: Siddiq Barmark
Cast: Marina Golbahari, Khwaja Nader, Mohammad Arif Herati, Gul Rehman Ghorbandi, Mohammad Nadir Khwaja
‘Osama’ – Review
First of all, Osama is not about Osama Bin Laden. Also, the girl’s real name is not mentioned in the movie. The girl is given the name ‘Osama’ by her friend when she disguised herself as a boy. So, from now on Osama = the girl.
‘Osama’ is the first Afghani film to be entirely made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Under the Taliban regime, the Sharia law was enforced. Effectively banning all kind of entertainment. Women were forbidden to work, women were not permitted to go outside without the company of a male relative.
After decades of civil war and recent occupation of the Taliban, the country is in ruins. The hospital is destroyed and has barely functional infrastructure. Osama’s (Marina Golbahari) mother has not received her salary for four months. Under the Taliban regime, she cannot work anymore. The hospital is ruined and the government does not care. Osama’s mother still takes care of patients but the hospital is raided by the Taliban. A man has to protect her mother by pretending to be her mother’s husband. Despite that, the man is condemned for allowing his wife to speak when questioned and allowing her to show her feet.
Osama sees women peacefully protesting for their right to work and Taliban dispersing them violently. After seeing all this, she seems confused. You can clearly see questions and confusion on her face as if the actress is re-living those moments.
The mother breaks down after returning to home. Condemns her life for not having a son. They have no opportunity to earn a living, as they have no male left in their family. Osama’s grandmother explains that both men and women are equal, both have their problems, both work hard and both are equally unfortunate in this world. She suggests cutting Osama’s hair and making her look like a boy so she can bring some food home. At first, she fears for life after hearing this suggestion but agrees to follow that path.
The film looks beautiful and very realistic. The film has many beautiful yet harrowing shots such as women’s peaceful protest;, Taliban using water cannons on the protesting women some of whom were carrying crying children, this daunting imagery was made look surreal and beautiful when the water cannon was unleashed on the protestors and a burka was shown being blown away by the water stream; a little boy limping on his wooden leg in an empty hallway of the hospital after a Taliban raid; a man escorting Osama and her mother to safety on bicycle on empty streets of city.
On another hand, some scenes are agonizingly painful to watch. Period blood dripping down Osama’s legs after she was tied up hung down the well as punishment; Osama’s painful plea to the judge to send her back to her mum after the judge ‘forgives her’ and gives her away to a Mullah in a wedlock (the other punishment would be being ‘stoned to death’); and most angering scene of all, Mullah asking Osama to pick her lock (the lock which he would use to lock Osama in her room like a prisoner) like it is some kind of celebratory moment.
All the actors are great! I did not see a weak link in this cast. Most of the actors were picked from Afghani streets. The fact that they are not professional actors makes it even greater! Especially Marina Golbahari is extremely resounding.
My only gripe with this film is that it should have ended on a positive note. Do not get me wrong, I am usually the one to argue against those who always want a happy conclusion. I am just being fussy, trying to find a fault. I like the way it is. It is realistic. It is vain to expect a big change by a young girl in this story. However, it would have been great to see little Osama getting a positive ending. I would have preferred to instil hope with a positive ending.
‘Osama’ is a very powerful film. We have read a lot about the Taliban, Afghanistan and all the misfortunes. This film does a much better job displaying a part of that. It is simple; it is heart-wrenching and a very realistic depiction of humanity at its absolute worst. There are places with unimaginable magnitudes of extremism, misogyny. Films like this make us realise most of us are living in much better conditions. Compared to these places, most of our problems with intolerance, gender-related issues or any other problems are not that big.
Before starting, brace yourselves to see some excruciatingly painful experience. Even if you are hard on the inside, it will melt you.
Osama - Ratings
A very harrowingly realistic movie that shows the worst of the humanity. A must watch!
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Marina Golbahari – Her True Story
As I said earlier, Marina’s acting was extremely realistic. From the very first moment you see her, questions and confusion on her face are clearly visible. It is as if she has lived those moments. Well, she has! Her life was not much different from the movie. The director discovered her while she was a 10-11 years old girl begging on Afghani streets. Her father used to sell music cassettes. During the Taliban regime, the Taliban destroyed her father’s music shop. Forcing her to beg to feed her family.
She had seen Bollywood films and had almost rejected the offer to act because she was not ‘infidel’ like Bollywood actresses (for showing skin, dancing with men etc). To act in this film was frightening and hard for her. She cried for real even though she was acting. Her father fainted in cinema hall when she was put down the well. She earned around $100/month of the shoot. She used this money and some extra help to buy a home for family and go to school.
You would expect that her life must have turned upside down for good but that is not the case. She was afraid of doing this film to avoid being ‘infidel’. Despite not doing anything wrong now she is ‘infidel’ in eyes of the conservative society.
After her initial popularity in Afghanistan, she has fallen out of favour in Afghanistan. She is exiled. Her family does not approve of her marriage and are ashamed of her because the whole world can see her photos. She is branded as a prostitute because her head was uncovered during Busan film festival in South Korea.
She receives death threats and her home was attacked with a bomb. She has even attempted suicide. She has to stay locked in order to avoid getting a death sentence.
Her story is equally as sad as ‘Osama’. No matter how hard you try, how much you help your family to feed and to earn them a shelter but, in the end, in conservative societies, you stay wherever you are.