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Running Time:
82 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for language and violence .

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
A fascinating, haunting, and harsh Afghani film that's amazing that even got made, and will leave an emotional impact that you won't soon forget.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: "Sharing Hope and Freedom" featurette with director Siddiq Barmak; Original theatrical trailer; Screen format: 16x9 widescreen (1.85:1); Original Pashtu: Mono; English language subtitles.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women were not permitted to work or even walk outdoors unaccompanied by a male family member. The film opens with women in their burkas marching in a peaceful right-to-work demonstration against the Taliban oppression. A young incense seller, Espandi (Arif Herati), speaks to the cameraman - "Do not film me - the Taliban is coming." Hearing this we see a mother (Zubaida Sahar) and her twelve-year old daughter (Marina Golhahari) on the fringes of the march desperately trying to get away before the retaliation can begin. The Taliban arrives in trucks and they begin spraying bullets and shooting high-pressured water at the crowd. The cameraman is beaten and the scene ends on an empty dusty street. The mother and daughter have saved themselves from the stampede of women, but they know that under the Taliban's terror laws, they cannot again venture outside of the home unless accompanied, and they have no one. At their home live three generations of women, with no mean of support, due to the fact that the father was killed fighting in the war. The mother and daughter are owed four months salary from the hospital they have been working at, but they have been told that the hospital is being closed by the Taliban and has no money to pay them. The desperate grandmother comes up with a plan for their survival. Her young granddaughter will cut her hair and dress in her father's clothes, and pretend to be a boy. The terrified girl must find a way to make enough money for the family to live. Mother convinces a kindly grocer, a former colleague of her dead husband, to take her daughter on as an assistant, and teach her how to act like a man. But soon a Taliban official becomes suspicious of the odd-acting boy at morning prayer. The employer convinces the officer of her masculinity and dispels his doubts, but nevertheless, the next day the Taliban rounds up all of the boys in the village, and herds them into the religious school which is being used for Taliban military training. Very quickly, her masculinity comes into question and Espandi (Herati), the beggar boy we've seen earlier, comes to her aid, hiding her secret and giving her the name Osama. But the other students and the Taliban teachers grow increasingly suspicious of her., and she is finally exposed by her physiology. Then she is imprisoned by the Taliban court, and her punishment is marriage to an old Mullah who has three other wives and the girl is forced to face a future of misery. Despite all of the harshness of "Osama," writer/director Siddiq Barmak has included poetic moments and slight glimmers of happiness for the young girl. While we watch her grandmother explain her dangerous plan and unceremoniously cuts off her braids to make the deception believable, we see the girl innocently plant one of the braids in a flowerpot as a sign of hope. When she is found out and imprisoned with other detained women, she is finally has a moment alone to jump rope and be what she really is, just a young innocent. But any hope for happiness under the pitiless Taliban can only be short lived. The only truly uplifting news for these unhappy people is the fact that the cruel, self-righteous, unforgiving rule of the Taliban is finally over.

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