A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The movies are a little more than a century old. Imagine if we could see films from previous centuries -- records of slavery, the Great Fire of London, the Black Plague. "Osama" is like a film from some long-ago age. Although it takes place in Afghanistan, it documents practices so cruel that it is hard to believe such ideas have currency in the modern world. What it shows is that, under the iron hand of the Taliban, the excuse of "respect" for women was used to condemn them to a lifetime of inhuman physical and psychic torture. No society that loves and respects women could treat them in this way.
The heroine of the film, Osama (Marina Golbahari) is a pre-adolescent in a household without a man. Under the rules of the Taliban, women are not to leave the house without a male escort, or take jobs, so Osama, her mother and grandmother are condemned to cower inside and starve, unless friends or relatives bring food. They do not. Finally the grandmother suggests that Osama cut her hair and venture out to find work, pretending to be a boy.
This story is told against a larger context of institutional sadism against women. An opening scene shows women in blue burkhas holding a demonstration -- they want the right to take jobs -- and being attacked by soldiers who begin with water cannons and eventually start shooting at them. Obviously Osama is risking her life to venture out into this world, and soon she's in trouble: She is snatched away from her job and sent to a school to indoctrinate young men in the ways of the Taliban.
There it is only a matter of time until her real sex is discovered. The punishment handed down by a judge is revealing: This child becomes one of the many wives of a dirty old man, a mullah who keeps his young women as prisoners. At that, Osama gets off lightly; another woman in the film is buried up to her neck and stoned for ... well, for behaving like a normal person in a civilized society.