Osama (2003)



Director:     Siddig Barmak.

Starring:     Marina Golbahari (Osama), Arif Herati (Espandi), Zubaida Sahar (Mother).

In Taliban Afghanistan a girl dresses as a boy to save her family from starvation.


Spoiler Warning:  the below tells the whole story.

Good Movie.  Women in Afghanistan (all dressed in head to foot burqas) demonstrate for their right to work.  The Taliban shows up and turns the water hoses on them and arrests some of them.  In the world of the Taliban, women have no rights.  Women to them are on the level of chattel or perhaps worse, because animals were probably treated better than females in Afghanistan. 

Here are a few of the restrictions and injustices mentioned in the movie:  women must be accompanied by a male in order to be outdoors; husbands must not let their wives talk to men (referred to as "strangers"); strict segregation of females from males; and extreme punishments, including stoning, of women for even minor offenses.

A mother, who evidently was a medical doctor, finds herself with a dead husband (killed in the Kabul Wars) and brother (killed in the Russian War) and no males to protect her from the Taliban monsters.  Things are so bad in the country, that the hospital is closed and the mother without any means of supporting her family: her mother, young daughter and herself.  In order to get some money, they cut the daughter's hair very short, dress her like a boy and get her a job in a small cafe.  The cafe proprietor was a buddy of her husband during the Kabul Wars and he willingly helps with the deception. 

The poor girl is almost scared out of her mind; especially that the Taliban will discover her true identity and kill her.  She gets away with it for awhile until the Taliban forces her to go to the ridiculous Taliban school of indoctrination.  She goes now by the name Osama.  But the boys are almost immediately suspicious of Osama and think she is a girl.  Her one buddy, Espandi, tries to protect her from the increasing taunts and harassment, but in the end he cannot stop the wave of cruelty following her way. 

For punishment for Osama's inability to climb down a tree after accepting the challenge of climbing up it, they hang him/her suspended by cable inside a well.  She makes such a fuss and bleeds so profusely, that her true sex is discovered.  She is arrested and thrown into a crowded jail.  She has to go before the judge in an open air make-shift court.  Poor "Osama" has to see the fate of others judged before her.  The Taliban execute an "infidel" (that is foreign) journalist by shooting him.  A woman is buried up to her neck and then stoned to death with the men and boys acting as if they were at a carnival.  (Just absolutely disgusting.)

"Osama" is declared an orphan (even though she isn't) and given/wedded to an old man, Mullah Sahib.  He locks her in a large building with lots of other wives and children.  The women tell her of how miserably they have been and are treated and that they wish to hell with the Taliban and the old man.

The last scene is the husband coming home and taking "Osama" up to be to assert his conjugal rights. 

Yes, a good movie, but man did I have a hard time watching it.  It was just one horrible thing, one sadistic thing after another virtually non-stop for the hour and twenty minutes or so.   After watching it, I was angry (at the wretched Taliban  -- may they rot in hell) and feeling a little sick and depressed.  Human beings have such great talents for inflicting pain on others of their species.  Doing this whole historical movies project, I have had to watch a lot of films about extreme cruelty of humans toward other humans or groups of humans.  But this was one of the toughest, because it was non-stop cruelty start to finish. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

In the interview with the director of the film, he makes the point that after the Taliban, Afghanistan not only had to rebuild the nation's homes and businesses, but it also had to rebuild human mentality itself.  He also mentioned that the theology of the Taliban was not really Islam.  It was something different, something the Taliban itself created for its own self-interest.  The whole nation, in a sense, was dehumanized by the atrocities of the Taliban.  He also mentioned that the Afghanis loved his film because it told the story through the victims' eyes  -- it told their story.

The movie was inspired by true stories.  It is the first entirely Afghan movie filmed since the fall of the Taliban.


Historical Background:


1979 (December 25)  --  the Soviets sent the 40th army into Afghanistan. 

1980s  --  the mujahedeen (or holy warriors) were those who fought furiously against the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

1989 (Feb 15)  --  the Soviet Union declared that all its troops were out of Afghanistan. 

1992  --  the fall of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.  A period of civil war between competing warlords began.  The mujahedeen now fought against each other. 

The Islamic Taliban movement (Taliban meaning student) derived from the Pashtuns (ethnic group of Iranians) in the south and east of Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier of Pakistan.  Mullah Mohammed Omar was the leader of the Movement. 

1994 (spring)  -- it is said that Taliban fighters saved two girls after their abduction and rape.  Soon, the Taliban was seen as a force that could handle the mujahedeen and that could bring order to the country.

1996-2001  --  the Taliban effectively ruled most of Afghanistan.  (The only remaining militias were in the north-east.  They joined together into the National Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan-- or the United Front or Northern Alliance.)

1998 (August 20)  --  US President Bill Clinton ordered the U.S. Navy to fire cruise missiles on four sites in Afghanistan thought to be terrorist training camps.

The Taliban began an extremely strict and oppressive form of Shari'ah (Islamic law) administered by religious police.  For instance, the penalty for adultery was amputation of limbs to stoning to death.  In addition, the Taliban banned all forms of television, imagery, music and sports.

The Taliban were especially cruel to women.  For instance, women were forced to wear the burqa (that is, an opaque veil worn along with a headscarf) when appearing in public.  Failure to comply could lead to a public beating. 

The Taliban also committed atrocities in Afghanistan.  More than 15,000 Shia were killed in Hazara Province and the women were enslaved to be sold to tribal leaders in Pakistan.

2001 (Sept. 11)  --  the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D. C. (along with a foiled attack).  Shortly afterwards, the United States attacked and occupied Afghanistan.  Much of the Taliban were killed or  forced into hiding or exile.



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