Taliban… bad.

Lord of the Flies has nothing on Osama.

Would women rather be dead than live this life?

Bleak doesn’t begin to describe Osama.

Desperate doesn’t begin to describe Osama.

Arresting images of women in pale blue birkas who had dared to protest running from the taliban.

Scruffy boy speaking to the camera.  He is in the beginning like a hieratic Greek chorus.


Limping children struggling in pillered walkways.

The plight of women under true oppression, their universal plight in time of war.

A mother says: "I wish God had not created women."

Her old mother corrects her saying men and women are equal.  They work as hard.  They are equally unfortunate.

A 12-year-old Afghan girl and her mother lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male "legal companion." With her husband and brother dead, killed in battle, there is no one left to support the family. Without being able to leave the house, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. Feeling that she has no other choice, she disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called ‘Osama,’ the girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from finding out her true identity. Inspired by a true story, Osama is the first entirely Afghan film shot since the fall of the Taliban.

In despair they take the daughter cut her hair, put her in pants, make her a boy.  They need a male family member who can escort a woman who goes to give health care to the sick for what ever money they can make.  They talk about it while braiding her hair.

Like the Chinese King of Masks (much happier, being Chinese) or the Jewish Yenta (much happier being a musical) and also the Chinese Farewell My Concubine (much happier because… well… because…) with its scenes of forcing a choice this movie has its hideous scenario of death or life, to be a girl or be a false boy.  

I was reminded of Vittorio di Sicca and Zhang Yimou who made films with non-actors.  There is a starling reality to what they produce. 

But bleak doesn’t begin to describe Osama.  You keep looking for little rays of hope, but they elude you as quickly as you summon them.

The little girl buries her hair with a bit of pigtail sticking out like a sappling, later with the remains of an IV dripping on it.  It is a harbinger of annihilation of hope.

The mother of the false boy wants an old war comrade running an apothacary, milk bar of sorts of her dead husband to hire the son who is a daughter.  And so the horror begins. 

Her identity can’t be hidden and you know it.  And you get the sense that the mother knew it and the old woman knew it.

There are some striking moments of film making which clue you in to what is coming.

Little sounds of a scissor in advance before you see it cutting.  Scrapping of a metal sittring implement on the bottom of a cauldron.

Distant and ever closer single shot gunfire.

Bare and dry… everything.  The cutting of a green ripse watermellon as if it were a head to be devoured.

The prayer chant allah hu akbar during prayer.  

The little actress remains obviously a girl which heightens the tension, because we know what the Talbian would do to the women in this scenario.

I was struck, on the intellectual level with a moment of change in the style of language with story telling. 

The old woman, grandmother, has the other side of the story, the message that being a man is no picnic.

One wonders if Major Hassan had this in mind as he shot his victims, invoking the name of his god.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ioannes Andreades says:

    One of my brother-in-law’s proudest moments from his time in Afghanistan in early 2002 was helping to close a stadium where women accused of adultery had their bellies cut open and were made to follow carts around the track that were attached by their own intestines. The poor souls walked until they collapsed and died.

  2. Rachel Pineda says:

    It is right to get angry at injustice. Thank God most people have a sense of outrage at this kind of injustice displayed in the movie. The strange thing is that it seems people who feel they can do nothing, that the problem is to overwhelming commit an offense against charity by doing nothing at all. While the people angry at smaller injustices like the ones in their comfortable parishes commit an offense against charity by doing too much, picking on every little thing. Then again, is it not a grave injustice to abuse the liturgy? If the Liturgy of the Mass was treated as it should be throughout the world, would we even have the taliban? Is that too far fetched? The people who commit these injustices prey on the weak. An injustice should move us to action, out of charity.

    As a woman and a mother this is terrifying. I do not think I am being presumptuous when I say, yes, we women would rather be dead.

  3. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, I do get worked up over liturgical travesties in my own and other parishes. And about the evils of Osama and others in the Middle East. And about Obama and the havoc he plans to wreak on our republic.

    I have room in my heart and mind for concerns over many issues. I can’t let go of the smaller local ones simply because there are evils in other countries.

    As I reminded people at dismissal this past Sunday, the Catechism teaches us our responsibilities as citizens, as well as all the other principles of our faith.

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. — Edmund Burke

  4. Traductora says:

    I’m going to have to see this film, although it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a pleasant experience.

    Anybody who believes in cultural or religious equivalency should go sit down and take a look at things like this. James Schall had a very good, short article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review about the fact that Islam and Christianity are not equivalent, alike, or even based on the same concept of God and creation. That’s essentially what we are reminded of by a film like this. And yet people want to shrug and say it really doesn’t matter if Islam is allowed to make inroads, often by intimidation, in US politics and culture.

  5. Gabriella says:

    Their rigid conception of God has influenced all areas of Islamic culture. A man has always reigned over his wives and children like a patriarch. A teacher ruled over his pupils. An employer often resembles a slave owner, just as many caliphs and sultans frequently exercised an unlimited and bloody power. Whoever was sick, weak or poor was reckoned as being punished by God. The strong, rich and victorious, however, were confirmed by Allah. The Christian’s path of lowliness, Jesus’ cross and the “boasting” of Paul over his weakness are diametrically opposed to the spirit of Islam and make Christianity appear as an inferior religion of degenerates. Here in Italy, a muslim father has recently killed his daughter because she had chosen a ‘catholic boyfriend’. The father is now in jail but the mother, interviewed in many TV programs just doesn’t understand what her husband did wrong!

    The thought that God is a Father and that out of love for the corrupted world he offered his only Son, is not only strange for a Muslim, but ridiculous, if not blasphemous! Every assertion of the nearness of God and his fatherly care is regarded as self-deception. Instead the distant, mighty and great dictator-god is worshiped and feared. In the future Islamic paradise, Allah will not personally be present, for he always remains far from his creatures, great and invisible. He who says that God revealed himself in the man Jesus is regarded as a liar and seducer.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Why aren’t all the liberal feminists (nuns) up in arms about this? Oh, I forgot, they are busy TRYING to become priests.

  7. Re: Gabriella

    Which is strange that this is what modern Islam has become. I do agree that in its earliest forms, it was still violent and spread by the sword, but in some of their writings Mohammad granted a divorce for a woman simply because she didn’t like her husband. I do also believe that alms giving is one of the Five Pillars of the religion.

  8. Kerry says:

    If someone shouts “olla-who(?) ock-barr” from the Narthex where I hear Mass, my brain will translate the Arabic as “close to engage”. MOLON LABE. “IHS”

  9. Richard says:

    Sounds like a culture many “traditional Catholics” who post on this site would like: veiled women who are submissive to the men, only one way of thinking about God, ridicule or condemnation of those who disagree with the ideologically pure. [That’s just strange. But you clearly mean it as an insult to many readers here. Bye.]

  10. Bruce says:

    I had to count to Ten before I reponded to Richard. As someone who use to think like Richard all I can say is knowledge will rid you of your ingorance. [DNFTT]

  11. Bruce says:

    Sorry for misspelling. It should say “ignorance”.

  12. MikeM says:

    Added this movie to my Netflix queue

  13. If some Islamic practices are perceived by us as evil, ignore them. Don’t go to Islamic countries. We invaded Iraq, which was our ally in the Iran-Iraq War, because Israel and many American Jews wanted Saddam Hussein removed. He was never a threat to the United States despite all the lies which were told to us by our government. If you want to achieve some balance in your viewpoints, visit the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum and see what Americans are capable of accomplishing from 30,000 feet in a shiny bomber. View the fifty stars on the American flag and realize each one represents one million murdered Americans who were killed in their mothers’ wombs since Roe v. Wade and realize that the American Government gives $3,000,000 to Planned Parenthood each year to accomplish this. The U.S. has the most liberal abortion laws of any country in the world, and we spend more on “Defense” than all the other countries in the world combined. We sell most of the arms we produce to other contries. [Take a look at the topic of this entry. Then look at your comment.]

  14. “If some Islamic practices are perceived by us as evil, ignore them.”

    Yeah, that’s the way Christian love works. Don’t say anything; just stand aside and let people go to Hell in their own handbasket. Of course, God says that if you know better and don’t say anything, you’ll be judged as guilty of all their sins, but never mind that. I hear Hell is nice no time of year.

    “Don’t go to Islamic countries.”

    Like Dearborn, Michigan? Like Phoenix, land of “I’ll honor kill my daughter with my car while doing my best to kill her boyfriend’s mom, too”? Like Fort Hood?

    Re: abortion — Of course it’s a sin that cries out to Heaven! But just because we’re busy fighting one evil, that doesn’t make it all right not to fight any other evil! “Oh, yeah, Jesus, I was so busy fighting my tendency to lie that I decided I could steal as much as I felt like.”

  15. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Aha. Goodness me. A slur on my scrap of black lace fabric, bought from a nice Muslim lady at Edinburgh Textiles. Actually, for me the mantilla feels like a kind of prayer shawl, like a kind of liturgical dress. I put on my mantilla when I walk into church, and I enter a sacred space mentally as well as physically. The action of putting on my only-for-church veil is like a private ritual, perhaps like that of priests vesting. By wearing the mantilla, I am conscious of expressing my identity as a Catholic woman among other Catholic women. And, since the fashion has sprung up this way in my parish, by wearing a black veil, I am also expressing my sacred vocation as a married woman.

    Of course, I don’t wear it to N.O. Masses because I know people might misunderstand and feel uncomfortable.

  16. Seraphic Spouse says:

    I think we can decry the horrific violence against women in other countries even while conscious of (and decrying) the horrific violence against the unborn.

    Meanwhile, Fr. Z. was writing about an Afghan film, not about the war in Iraq, Hiroshima, abortion and arms dealing. Sometimes it’s NOT all about the US of A.

  17. Ygnacia says:

    This movie still haunts me. I saw it a couple of years ago ~ I try not to think about it, especially the end. In the back of my mind I remember about it enough to continue to pray for my little sisters caught in inhuman conditions. Lord have mercy.

  18. bruno says:

    Sounds like a culture many “traditional Catholics” who post on this site would like: veiled women who are submissive to the men, only one way of thinking about God, ridicule or condemnation of those who disagree with the ideologically pure.
    Comment by Richard — 11 November 2009 @ 11:04 am
    You don’t know them well enough to make this assessment; this is about you. [DNFTT]

  19. Agnes says:

    Seraphic Spouse, I have not covered my head in many years, but I have to say your description is the most beautiful one I’ve read in as many years.

    Just an observation – it seems in many places, cultures, religions, the strong do not help the vulnerable. Only the vulnerable help the vulnerable. The nourishment of the Catholic Faith should compel us to get outside of ourselves and influence the culture in a concrete way. Maybe this movie serves as a reminder, or a warning, of what sort of chaos Western civilization will face as Christianity continues to water itself down the drain.

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