Siddiq Barmak's Osama, the first Afghan film produced since the Taliban was dismantled by the U.S.'s post-9/11 military efforts, is a scathing indictment of the horrific treatment of women under Osama bin Laden's reign of terror. It's also, in light of the recent Under the Skin of the City and Kandahar, a somewhat familiar portrait of the Islamic world's systematic attempts to subjugate its female population through a mixture of humiliation, violence, and public and professional segregation. Yet if Barmak's film is not a unique depiction of the Islamic world, it is nonetheless a fiercely acute condemnation of the Taliban and a piercing call to arms on behalf of the country's enslaved female population.

"I wish God hadn't created women," laments a widow (Zubaida Sahar) who, because of a Taliban law that forbids women from working or traveling outside the home without male companionship, becomes trapped inside her house with her elderly mother and young daughter (Marina Golbahari). Fearing they'll die of starvation without an income, the mother - taking her cues from a fable her own mother repeatedly recites - decides that she'll disguise her daughter as a boy and send her out to work. By chopping the young girl's hair off and dressing her in men's clothing, the mother transforms her pretty daughter into a boy and gets her a job at the dairy shop run by a friend of the girl's dead father. Yet the ruse is soon put in jeopardy when the girl - re-named, in a bit of heavy-handed symbolism, Osama - is recruited along with the rest of the town's boys to join the Taliban.

Continue reading: Osama Review