Not for the squeamish, this drama is an intense portrayal of hardships endured by Afghans under the austere occupation of the Taliban. A 12-year-old girl (Marina Golbahari) is disguised as a boy and nicknamed “Osama” by her widowed mother (Zubeydeh Sahar) who, like all women, is barred from working. Desperate to feed the family of three women, her mother sends Osama to work for a local merchant. Soon she is gathered up with all of the boys in the village to attend school, where for hours the students recite from the Koran. Her first exposure to school and the mosque makes Osama’s fearful behavior a target of ridicule and torment by the other boys. Osama’s deception is revealed in a humiliating incident that leads to her arrest. Winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign film, Osama can be appreciated for its simplicity and bleak honesty, but don’t expect a fairy-tale ending.
The rigid, fanatical beliefs of the Taliban make no allowances for compassion. If a widow and her family are starving to death, the rules prevent her from earning any kind of support. Women who protest are hosed down with high-pressure hoses and, if not drowned, are jailed. Osama is only appropriate for mature audiences. Dove cannot award Osama the Dove Seal because of adult themes, repetitive use of a crude term and graphic dialog on personal hygiene.