Osama the film
We just finished watching "Osama", and without spoiling the film, we'll offer a few thoughts: First off, no term other than "gender apartheid" seems appropriate to describe the plight of women under the Taliban. It's not as though their speech is suppressed, or that they have no freedom of religion. It's much more fundamental than that. Women aren't allowed out of the home unaccompanied by a male relative, period. The Taliban religious police will stop and interrogate anyone who isn't following these rules. So the simple act of visiting a sick relative in the hospital takes daring and subterfuge to accomplish. The film is the story of "Osama," a girl who pretends to be a boy in order to work and provide for her family. They have no male relatives – all are dead. Some observations: She doesn't know how to pray: the Taliban hold women hostage in their sick "religion" but they don't allow them to participate in it. This is obvious when the girl is allowed to participate in prayers, but does not know what to do – and Muslim prayers are very regimented. There is a ritual to them that she does not understand. The Taliban seem separate from the rest of the people in the film. They are immediately recognized by their beards, AK-47s, and whips, which nearly all carry. They are the only ones with vehicles – usually pretty late-model trucks with crew-served weapons in the beds – technical vehicles. They seem to live apart from society in some ways in that the rest of the people fear them. And how do they women know who is a Taliban sympathizer and who is not? There is a risk in every interaction they make. The setting is what we imagined Afghanistan to be: spacious, open scenery, featuring mountains in the background, with little development other than walled cities made from mud. Little or no agriculture is visible throughout the film, which makes one wonder how they eat. The wages of endless war are evident everywhere: nearly every building seems to be sport bullet holes and there are old Russian BMPs and other military leavings to be found strewn about. In one scene they substitute for a playground for the boys, who are playing on a BMP. The most striking scene to us was the meeting of all the men to observe the Taliban administer justice near the end of the film. The meeting takes place in front of what long ago was some sort of municipal building perhaps – it has high columns in the front and probably used to have quite an impressive façade. But it is now cracked, peeling, roofless, and shot through with holes. The gathering of the men in front of this building and the capriciousness with which the senior Talib metes out punishments alludes to all manner of post-apocalyptic film-making in the West, from Mad Max to On the Beach, to even the more recent film A.I. – where the people torture robots for taking away their jobs and presuming to be human. There is some similarity here, as the women are tortured for not being robotic enough. Indeed, the most haunting images in the work are those of groups of women all clad in their blue burkhas. In whatever setting they appear – marching in protest, jailed, at a mock funeral – the effect of their faceless attire is to render them somewhat soul-less, like zombies in old horror films, but unwittingly so, and bent on their own redemption, rather than the suffering of innocents. This was an excellent film, and if you buy or rent it, we recommend the interview with the director as well – where we learn that every episode in the story happened to someone. It is more a well-wrought merging of many true events than it is a fictitious movie, and it deserves to be watched and reflected upon. UPDATE: We've added a link to "Osama" in the sidebar.