Review: Offside at the Football Film Festival


Anyone who is even remotely football-literate and/or cine-literate knows that the two don’t always combine well. The likes of When Saturday Comes and Goal are testament to that. And let’s not even talk about United Passions, the film about Fifa which was 90 per cent funded by Fifa (Tim Roth plays Sepp Blatter and there isn’t a brown envelope stuffed with cash to be seen). However, there are actually some gems out there, which bring the beautiful game to the big screen magnificently. It can be painful to sift through the crap to get to the good stuff, so thankfully the Football Film Festival has done it for you, and are delivering a platter of pure football gold in a collection of screenings around Australia.

Saturday afternoon’s offering in Parramatta was Offside, a 2006 Iranian film directed by Jafar Panahi, which tells the tale of a group of girls who want to attend a World Cup qualifying match. The problem is that they are forbidden by law because of their sex. You see, female fans are not allowed to enter football stadiums in Iran on the grounds that there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them.

They disguise themselves are boys and try to sneak through the turnstiles, only to fail and be put in a detention area while they wait to be taken to the vice squad. What follows is a very funny, gentle comedy which is more to do with women’s right in Iran than it is to do with a football match.

Apparently inspired by the director’s daughter’s decision to attend a game in spite of the law, the film gives a microscopic example of the oppressive nature of the country, from the women who aren’t afforded even the most basic liberties, to the soldiers who must carry out their service despite not wanting to be there.

Offside was shot in Iran, but its screening was banned there. It’s worth catching if you get the chance. It offers a fresh take on the football movie and gives an insight into a country which many of us don’t know too much about.

If you like the idea of seeing some other quality football flicks on the big screen, then the festival heads to Norton Street in Leichhardt next week, and then on to Brisbane and Melbourne. Here are the Sydney listings. For the full schedule and to book tickets, head to their website (we can heartily recommend Next Goal Wins, which is an incredibly touching documentary about the American Samoa football team – you know, the ones who lost 31-0 to Australia).

7pm | Opening Reception
7.30pm | Gascoigne + Opening Ceremony

6.30pm | Messi

9pm | Black and White Democracy + Artist Talk with Ahilan Ratnamohan

2pm | A Wonderful Season of Failure + Fan Engagement Q&A Forum

5pm | Next Goal Wins

2.30pm | Special Event double-header
Tim Cahill: The Unseen Journey + No Apologies + The Local Game Q&A Forum

4.30pm | Looking for Eric + Closing Ceremony + Awards Night

bobby townsend


Review by Bobby Townsend.