Released to coincide with the World Cup, Offside is a bittersweet comedy from writer/director Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Crimson Gold), which will doubtless be labelled the 'Iranian Bend It Like Beckham'. Unfolding on the day of a crucial international qualifying game at Tehran's Azadi stadium, it begins with a teenage girl (Sima Mobarak-Shahi) disguised as a boy and attempting to get into the ground. Taken to a holding pen with other female fans, she faces questioning by the Vice Squad.
Confidently shot on handheld DV cameras and credibly acted, Offside recalls the best work of Ken Loach, in that the humour and the social critique emerge from the predicaments of the characters. And the closing footage of the joyful, real-life celebrations on the streets of the Iranian capital offer some hope for the country's future.