Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Osama 2003

Directed by Siddiq Barmak

Afghanistan / Ireland / Japan In Dari, English, French and Pashto with English subtitles
82 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay, Editor


Ebrahim Ghafori


Mohammad Reza Darvishi


Marina Golbahari
Mohammad Arif Herati
Zubaida Sahar
Mohammad Nadir Khwaja


The first film to be made by an Afghan after the fall of the Taliban,Osama tells the story of a desperately poor mother who decides to dress her pre-pubescent girl as a boy in order for her to be able to get a job and earn them money enough to live. Osama’s combination of timeliness, political impact and dramatic power made it one of the most-talked about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

“Set in the early days of Taliban rule and based on a true story, it tells of an 11-year-old girl whose mother sends her out with a short haircut and long robes to find work as a ‘boy’ and support the family. It's a reckless ruse, one with potentially fatal consequences. The girl is taken to the men-only prayer ritual, and attends instruction by a mullah in the proper washing of the male genitals. Everyone notices that this ‘boy’ is different – ‘like a nymph,’ the mullah says... Heartfelt and handsomely made, Osama is full of vignettes showing the depredations of autocratic theocracy. When a Taliban inspector arrives at a hospital where a female doctor is treating an old man, the doctor must quickly don a burqa and claim that she is the wife of her patient's son. We know that a happy ending in reality – indeed, if it is an ending and if it is happy – came only years later, with the overthrow of the Taliban. But the two Afghan films give a lesson that other directors, at Cannes and beyond, could learn from: that life, as it is endured on the vast margins of civilized society, is the most exciting and soul-wrenching form of melodrama. Its dilemmas are not solved by bullets or resolved by bombs.” — Richard Corliss, Time 

“A gripping work that graphically displays the Taliban's former grip of terror, Osama is one of the true gems to be unearthed here in Cannes.” — Stephen Garret, indieWIRE