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Osama
أسامة
Directed by Siddiq Barmak
Produced by Julia Fraser & Julie Le Brocquy
Written by Siddiq Barmak
Starring Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar, Khwaja Nader
Music by Mohammad Reza Darvishi
Distributed by ICA
United Artists (distribution only)
Release date(s) France May 20, 2003 (premiere at Cannes)
Afghanistan June 27, 2003
United States February 6, 2004
United Kingdom February 13, 2004
Australia April 29, 2004
New Zealand May 13, 2004
Running time 83 minutes
Country Afghanistan
Language Persian

Osama (Persian: أسامة) is a 2003 film made in Afghanistan by Siddiq Barmak. It tells a story about a young girl who disguises as a boy, Osama, that shows life under the Taliban, and was the first film to be shot entirely in that country since 1996, when the Taliban régime banned the creation of all films. The film was an international co-production between companies in Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Japan, Ireland and Iran.

Although the title of the film highlights an allegorical relevance to Osama bin Laden, there is no further similarity.

Contents

Plot

A 12-year-old Afghan girl (Marina Golbahari) and her mother (Zubaida Sahar) lose their jobs when the Taliban close the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male "legal companion." With her husband and uncle dead, having been killed in battle during the Soviet invasion and their civil wars, there are no men left to support the family. Unable to leave the house without fear of arrest and torture, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. With no other choice, and inspired by a story her mother tells about a boy who went under a rainbow and became a girl, she disguises her daughter as a boy named 'Osama'. Osama manages to secure a job at the local chai tea shop, but 'his' effeminate ways quickly arouse suspicion among the other boys.

Khwaja Nader in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 2006. Photo by James Yuanxin Li.

Eventually, in a drive to collect soldiers, the local boys, including Osama, are taken from their homes or work by the Taliban to be trained as soldiers. At the training school, they are taught how to fight and conduct ablutions, and Osama realizes it can only be so long before she is found out. Several of the boys begin to pick on her, and eventually her secret is outed when she gets her menstrual period. Arrested, she is put on trial, and as this case is without precedent, her life is spared when she is given in marriage to a man (Khwaja Nader) who delivered a videotape filmed by a western journalist who is also being tried. The new husband already has three wives, all of whom hate him and say that he destroyed their lives. They take pity on Osama, but they are powerless to help her.

Production

The director has said that Osama was at least partially inspired by a girl he once met, who disguised herself as a boy in order to attend school. It has also been said that this movie might have been at least partially inspired by a newspaper report in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

The movie was filmed on location in Kabul, Afghanistan. Work began in June, 2002 and was completed in March 2003 with a budget of approximately $46,000 USD. All the actors in the film are amateurs found by the director on the streets of Kabul.

According to "Marina," a documentary about actress Marina Golbahari filmed concurrently with the movie, "Osama" was originally entitled "Rainbow," and ended on a hopeful note, with Osama passing under a rainbow and gaining her freedom. As time went on, however, the director grew dissatisfied with the ending and changed it, and also cut out other scenes in the movie that expressed hope.

Responses

Osama was very well-received by the Western cinematic world. It gathered a rating of 96% on review site Rotten Tomatoes, which tabulates the reviews of online professionals into a single rating.

Despite the amount of violence in the film, it received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

Awards and nominations

Bratislava International Film Festival (2003)

  • Awarded "Special Mention"
  • Nominated "Grand Prix for F1"

Cannes Film Festival (2003)

  • Awarded "AFCAE Award"
  • Awarded "Cannes Junior Award"
  • Awarded "Golden Camera - Special Mention"

Cinemanila International Film Festival (2004)

  • Awarded "Best Actress" - Marina Golbahari, tied with Katherine Luna for Babae sa Breakwater
  • Nominated "Lino Brocka Award"

Golden Globes, USA (2004)

  • Awarded "Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film" - Afghanistan

Golden Satellite Awards (2004)

  • Nominated "Golden Satellite Award Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language" - Afghanistan/Iran

Golden Trailer Awards (2004)

  • Won "Golden Trailer Best Foreign"

Kerala International Film Festival (2003)

  • Won "Audience Award"

London Film Festival (2004)

  • Won Sutherland Trophy

Molodist International Film Festival (2003)

  • Won "Best Film Award Best Full-Length Fiction Film"
  • Won "Best Young Actor Award" - Marina Golbahari

Pusan International Film Festival (2003)

  • Won "New Currents Award" - Special Mention
  • Won "PSB Audience Award", tied with Seontaek

Valladolid International Film Festival (2003)

Young Artist Awards (2004)

  • Nominated "Young Artist Award Best International Feature Film"

See also

External links

Preceded by
Talk to Her
Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film
2004
Succeeded by
The Sea Inside
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