cinema review: Osama (2003)

Remember the Handmaid's Tale? It was the dire story predicting a women's dystopia under the regime of the Moral Majority in America. Of course, it never happened. The abortion wars of 1985 are still going on and the Religious Right has splintered. Meanwhile, 10 years later, the Taliban came to power and imposed a religious regime that made Atwood's book seem like a joke. Osama is the first post-Taliban film made in Afghanistan. The director pieced together anecdotes from the insanity of life under the regime and cobbled together a story about a 12 year old girl who has her head shaved by her mother and grandmother that she might find work outside the home without arrest by the Taliban religious enforcers. The movie starts with a rally of women in burqas marching for the opportunity to work in order to make money to fend off starvation. The religious police respond with high power hoses and imprisonment.

All this young girl wants is to be a girl. She wants to jump rope. There is an unfinished theme in the movie about the power of rainbows, to provide hope, and change genders, boy to girl and girl to boy. As she waits in prison, guilty of being forced into Taliban boys training school under false gender assumption, she daydreams about jumping rope. As she is forced into being another wife of a Taliban mullah5 times her age, all she has is the daydream. The Wiki article on this movie suggests the rainbow theme was originally intended to provide a hopeful ending. But the director decided the true trajectory of the movie was a downward spiral. Who wants to admit hope returned with the American invasion which led to the Taliban downfall?

This is the truer Handmaid's Tale. It was the nominally Christian nation that stopped the oppression of these women. The rise of the Taliban could be blamed on the communist Russian invasion in 1979. That led to the death of 1 million Afghanis and 5 million refugees. Those numbers numb us, however, a story about one girl's life destroyed by the Taliban ricks our conscience. You can't enjoy this movie, but it is worth watching.


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