Grim post-Taliban tale from Afghanistan

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Score 4

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Osama

OPENS FEBRUARY 13, CERT 12A, 90 MINS

The first feature film made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, Osama is an impassioned account of the oppression and injustice meted out by the regime. And while the film owes an obvious stylistic debt to the work of Iranian directors such as Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf and Panahi, the story is unmistakably Afghani.

A mother is sent home from her hospital job, leaving three generations of women without support. She disguises her 12-year-old daughter as a boy and sends her out to work. Her stint as breadwinner is brief, as she’s soon rounded up with other boys to attend a madrassa. Things go from bad to worse, reaching a harrowing conclusion to compete with the fates of any of the women in Panahi’s The Circle for unstinting hopelessness. The amateur cast is convincing, particularly the daughter, Marina Golbahari, whose huge, frightened eyes director Siddiq Barmak uses to reflect the precarious existence on the streets of Kabul under the Taliban.