Sunday, March 20, 2011


The entire nation of Iran is transfixed by a World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain. Though forbidden by law to attend the game in person, several devoted female fans attempt a variety of schemes to gain admission. A few of them are caught, and held in a makeshift pen just feet away from a gate to the stadium in which this crucial game is unfolding.

Jahar Panafi's 2006 film is a thriller. It's an incisive examination of Iranian sexual politics (giving voice to both the women who are practically enslaved by them and the men who find themselves frustrated having to enforce them. As powerfully as it exposes the double standards of Iran's laws, the film never lapses into polemic: Panafi's humanism means none of the film's disparate, desperate characters are cast as villains. It's an essential look at the social policies and lives of the citizens of Iran, and, because of how it powerfully shows the power of football to unite people across such artificial lines, it happens to be a great fucking sports movie.

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