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Osama has Asian premiere

There are certain films which are meant to make you think and to make you feel, and which can move you. Osama is one of them. The film had its Asian premiere at the ongoing Cinefan.
PTI | By Manjulaa S. Negi, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 21, 2003 01:52 PM IST

“It is a not a film to be enjoyed,” said Aruna Vasudev, director Cinefan, while introducing Osama at its Asian premiere last evening at the India Habitat Centre. “Because not all the times can a film be viewed in the context of the visual element it provides or only its cinematic qualities. There are certain films which are meant to make you think and to make you feel, and which move you. Osama is one of them.”

Directed by Sedigh Barmak (whose other works – four shorts and two documentaries – were banned under the Taliban regime and he himself had to go in exile while the Taliban were in power) Osama  became the first film to be filmed in Afghanistan after the Fall and exposes in detail the atrocities committed on women at the time.

Osama, made in the cinema verité style is a powerful indictment against the attitudes adopted by the fundamentalist Taliban. The young girl, disguised as a boy and re-christened Osama, is sent out as breadwinner because her mother and grandmother have to be fed. Her mother who works at a hospital despite being educated enough to earn is not allowed to step out of the house unaccompanied by a male member of the family. Her husband and brother have died and so that isn't possible.

In a catch-22 situation the child is their only hope, for with a haircut and men’s clothes she passes off as a young boy. The irony lies in the fact that the little girl has been brought up on tales of equality by her grandmother. The film highlights the trauma and the accompanying fear that pervades all their lives. And it isn’t only the women who are terrified but the men as well who find themselves powerless against the AK-47 weilding Taliban. No one voices any protests, for they won't be tolerated.

Vasudev is right in that Osama  cannot be viewed as a film seen to be enjoyed, for its documentary style demands thought. One cannot view the film and then attempt to forget it like a bad dream. In certain manners, it is reminiscent of Alain Resnais’ classic Night and Fog, though it isn’t as powerful a commentary. But Barmak generates sympathy nonetheless for his characters because of the detached style.

Surprisingly, all the actors in the film are non-professionals, but manage to do a superb job. In fact, so convincing is the act that a foreign scribe at the festival was overheard asking the director if the film had actually been shot or filmed as the events unfolded. Whereupon the director qualified that it was indeed “filmed. Everything was staged.”

Just as well, for Taliban were in any case never kind to those who filmed their atrocities as an incident in the film highlighted. A foreign journalist who took a video of protest marches by Afghan women is later put in front of the firing squad.

Osama  cannot be enjoyed but it certainly can’t be missed either.

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