Osama (2003)

Around the time of the attacks of September 11th 2001, America was at its all time high of security, ignorance, idiocy, anger, hatred, sadness, etc. But most importantly, filmmakers were compelled to express their sheer rush of emotions responding to this attack. Some gave us patriotic films, some paid homage to that day, and others preferred to examine more original views. Director Siddiq Barmak instead gives us an inside look at the practices and cruelty of the Taliban, and a society paralyzed under the control of the Taliban.

From the get go, you just know this film will not have a happy ending. Because happy endings are not life and happy endings are not a part of the life people in this country lead day in and day out. That’s just not realistic. So, it’s not a spoiler to tell you that “Osama,” is not a happy film, and it’s simply not one that ends with a smile. There will not be pep in your step as the credits roll, but in some way, you will be appreciative of the freedoms you possess. I’m not one to preach about freedoms and how lucky Americans have it, but when you compare it to the situations here, where folks have no escape plan, you tend to appreciate what you have.

Director Barmak provides us with a rare glimpse into a world where innocence is lost immediately, and the practice of torture and murder is the norm. We also glimpse into the life of a young girl forced to risk her life to provide for her family. Filmed after the fall of the Taliban, “Osama” opens with a protest of many Burka clad women begging for better rights since they can not work now that their husbands have died. Their protests are immediately silenced though, as the Taliban raids the scene, and strikes them down. The world depicted in “Osama” is a world that still exists. Women starve to death, resort to prostitution and begging, and have no rights. They can not think, speak, or even sing. In one scene, a marriage celebration is hushed at the presence of the Taliban.

The girl depicted in “Osama” basically has no name, and she’s more a symbol of the women in this world who has no chance of survival or living safely. She’s forced to bring her dress down, can not smile or laugh, and is at the mercy of men. After her father and brother are lost, her mother, desperate for some sense of relief, cuts her daughter’s hair and forces her to masquerade as a boy. The girl is then pushed out into a male dominated society and attempts to work, and live as a boy and the tension rises. The impending doom that mounts minute by minute is gripping, and Barmak simply doesn’t sugar coat a thing.

Going by the name Osama, the young girl seeks to live as a boy, even though she’s aware it’s almost impossible. Osama is played by the beautiful Marina Golbahari, whose performance is utterly exceptional, and criminally overlooked. “Osama” is a film that’s simply not a work of fiction, because it’s happened before, and it continues happening to this day. It’s accepted, and there’s nothing really left to be done in that world. Which is why “Osama” has to be seen. It simply can not be regarded as a fictional thriller, because in the end, “Osama” works more as a semi-documentary about a world that still exists, and continues to deem the practices depicted as acceptable. “Osama” is a grueling but wonderful picture.