Osama, based on a true story, is the first Afghani feature film since the fall of the Taliban – and it certainly pulls no punches. The horrific events filmed are a strident protest, and a clear lesson of the dangers of fanaticism. Not for an enjoyable night out, but worthwhile nonetheless.

The story is a simple one – a family of three women are forced to try anything to survive in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, due to the law that no woman can leave her home without a male relative in supervision. The story unfolds in an obvious manner, without any Hollywood-style twists or unnatural happy endings. It is the nature of this simple story however, that is interesting to this Westerner, so comfortable in my First World lifestyle.

Much of what is filmed is shocking – I won’t comment further here due to our spoiler policy – and really brings home the brutality and inhumanity of the Taliban regime. I guess being able to focus on one young girls’ plight makes it more accessible than what we see on the nightly news. The eventual outcome is gut-wrenching and awful, but rang true, and never seemed fantastic or unrealistic.

The real power of this film however, for me, is in allegory. I’m not sure whether it was intended as such or not, but Osama is an extremely powerful message against fanaticism of all kinds. It isn’t just about the horrific acts committed by those purporting to be Muslims, it applies to Christians, Jedi and other religions, as well as non-religious groups. Witness the power of ‘mob-mentality’ in European soccer fans. It’s suddenly ok to commit acts that in your normal life would be out of line, just because your team won or lost a game of football?? It is also about safety in numbers and a sense of power when one otherwise seemed so powerless – these are powerful precipitants to acts of cruelty against our neighbours.

Not only does Osama brutally condemn the Taliban, it condemns all of us who follow the crowd, stick with the majority, or ‘go along for the ride’. A powerful story of the potential for evil in organisations, and the danger of passion, my brain hasn’t stopped thinking through this over a day after seeing it.

Highly recommended, but not at all fun.

Rating: 4 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 1st January 1970
Hoopla Factor: 1 stars

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