Osama

Osama

Well-meaning tragedy that ultimately feels like propaganda, Osama is notable for being the first film made in "post-Taliban" Afghanistan. Marina Golbahari stars as a nameless 12-year-old girl who, in order to make money to feed her widowed mother and grandmother, must shear her long locks and pose as a boy to get work. It's a dangerous task that winds up with the girl in a Taliban training camp, where she must hide her sex or face potential execution.

As a drama, there is plenty of tension in this setup (the only boy at the camp who knows of her gender is the one who dubs her "Osama" - the significance of the name is not unintentional), and so Osama is somewhat gripping, considering its slow pace. But it doesn't do much other than to point out the barbarities of the Taliban, which it often does heavy-handedly.

It's made at a strange time, when the Taliban are officially no longer in power in Afghanistan, even though field reports clearly indicate that they still hold control over much of the country, and in any event women are still mistreated and kept virtual prisoner despite the UN-friendly goals of the new Afghan government. So while President Bush urges Americans to watch Osama as sort of a rationale behind "why we fight", in the end the joke is on him, since the film's issues remain sadly relevant even after the public eye has shifted away.

Regardless, there is a masochism inherent to this film that had me feeling as hopeless as its young heroine. Which is counterproductive to the film's cause, as I can't believe there isn't a whit of hope or strength in the women of Afghanistan, no matter how bad things may be for them.