A 12-year-old Afghan girl (Marina Golbahari) and her mother (Zubaida Sahar) lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male "legal companion."

With her husband and brother dead, killed in battle, there is no one left to support the family. Without being able to leave the house, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. Feeling that she has no other choice, she disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called 'Osama,' the girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from finding out her true identity.

Inspired by a true story.


Osama is the first Afghani film to be made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. It focuses, as so many stories from that country do, on the plight of women.

The film opens during the time of the Taliban with blue burkah-clad women protesting peacefully in the streets of Kabul, for the right to work. Under the Taliban, women are forbidden to work, they may not walk on the streets without a male relative accompanying them. If you are a widow with no male relatives these are desperate times. The demonstration is violently dispersed.

When the hospital closes down the mother of a 12-year-old girl loses her job. She decides to dress the daughter as a boy so that she can earn some money to feed them. But the girl, dubbed Osama by a street urchin who is aware of her true identity, is caught up in the religious fervour of the Taliban to educate young men. She's rounded up with many others and taken to school where any mistake could betray her.

This film, written and directed by Siddiq Barmak, is a simply splendid piece of cinema. It's unbelievably tense, it's beautiful and horrible at the same time, Barmak understands how to use cinema to tell a powerful story. The Makmahlbaf family of Iran was significant in getting this film made, supplying many of the resources needed including Mohsen and Samira's cinematographer Ebrahim Ghafuri. The cast, many of whom can have little or no experience in front of cameras, are heartwrenchingly convincing.

This is a film that rails against the extremes of fundamentalist Islam and against its hypocrisy, while pointing out that Muslims are the ones who suffer. An important and very moving film.

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1 hour 23 min