news Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | October 6, 2014 | 2.21 pm IST

The jailing of British Iranian woman Ghoncheh Ghavami for demanding entry into a volleyball stadium is a tragic real-life extension of her fellow countryman Jafar Panahi’s film Offside.

Ghoncheh Ghavami (25) has been in solitary confinement for more than three months after being arrested on June 20 for demanding entry to a stadium to watch a volley ball match. Women are prohibited from watching matches in a stadium.

Read: Jailed for watching men's volleyball match, British-Iranian woman starts hunger strike

In 2006, Jafar Panahi, himself a victim of the Iranian government, made a film called Offside. When his daughter was refused entry to watch a soccer match, Panahi decided to make a film about it.

Jafar Panahi

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi

Offside is a powerful film about a few girls who just want to watch their country’s football team play against Bahrain during the world cup qualifiers. Each of the characters has a personality of their own, from the tomboyish, to the mild-mannered. They disguise themselves in various ways and try to escape the scrutiny of the soldiers who stand guard at entry points. 

Offside

A still from the film Offside

Offside also explores the attitudes of law enforcers towards their jobs. Some of them are sympathetic to the girls but are helpless, others want the letter of the law followed. 

In this interview, Panahi says his daughter wanted to watch a football match when he was going to the stadium. Despite knowing that she wasn’t allowed, she was adamant about at least trying to come. This is what he said: 

"Also, four years ago I was living near the stadium where our football team trains. I wanted to go and watch and my daughter wanted to come with me. I tried to explain to her that she couldn’t, but she nevertheless wanted to try. So we set out with the entire family, that way if my daughter was refused entry, my wife could take her back home. We went to the stadium entrance and, as I had expected, my daughter was refused entry. I told her to go home with her mother, but she found another way of getting into the stalls and to my surprise, she joined me."

Watch the trailer of the film here:

Trailer of the film Offside

Halfway through the film, all of the girls have been caught and are being taken by a van to the Vice Squad. Along with the soldiers, they listen to the commentary of the match on the radio.

The film ends with Iran qualifying for the match, and all of its citizens pouring out onto the streets bursting crackers in the night sky. As the city erupts in cheers and ecstatic celebration the girls too join in, along with the soldiers.

Ghavami’s story however began three months ago. She was only able to speak to her parents once.

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