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Osama (film)

American theatrical release poster
Directed by Siddiq Barmak
Produced by Julia Fraser
Julie Le Brocquy
Written by Siddiq Barmak
Starring Marina Golbahari
Arif Herati
Zubaida Sahar
Zabih ullah Frotan
Music by Mohammad Reza Darvishi
Cinematography Ebrahim Ghafori
Edited by Siddiq Barmak
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • 20 May 2003 (2003-05-20) (Cannes)
  • 27 June 2003 (2003-06-27) (Afghanistan)
Running time
83 minutes[1]
Country Afghanistan
Language Persian
Budget $46,000[2]
Box office $3,888,902[2]

Osama (Persian: اسامه‎‎) is a 2003 drama film made in Afghanistan by Siddiq Barmak. The film follows a pre-teen girl living in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime who disguises herself as a boy, Osama, to support her family. It was the first film to be shot entirely in Afghanistan since 1996, when the Taliban régime banned the creation of all films. The film is an international co-production between companies in Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Japan, Ireland, and Iran.

Although the title of the film highlights an allegorical relevance to Osama bin Laden, there is no further similarity.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Box office 4.1
  • Awards and nominations 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Khwaja Nader in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 2006.

In the film, the Taliban are ruling Afghanistan. Their regime is especially repressive for women, who, among other things, are not allowed to work. This situation becomes difficult for one family consisting solely of three women, representing three successive generations: a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother. With the mother's husband and uncle dead, having been killed in battle during the Soviet invasion and their civil wars, there are no men left to support the family. The mother had been working as a nurse in a hospital, but the Taliban cut off funding to the hospital, leaving it completely dysfunctional with no medicines and very little equipment. One foreign woman working as a nurse in the hospital is arrested by the Taliban. The mother does some nursing outside the hospital and receives payment from the caretaker of a patient, but after the patient dies the mother cannot find any more work.

The mother and grandmother then make what they feel is the only decision they can to survive: they will have their preteen daughter disguise herself as a boy so that she can get a job to support the family. Osama’s grandmother tells a story to Osama about a boy who changed to a girl when he went under a rainbow, in order to help persuade her to accept the plan. The daughter, feeling powerless, agrees despite being afraid that the Taliban will kill her if they discover her masquerade. Partly as a symbolic measure, the daughter plants a lock of her now cut hair in a flowerpot. The only people outside the family who know of the ruse are the milk vendor who employs the daughter - he who was a friend of her deceased father - and a local boy named Espandi, who recognizes her despite her outward change in appearance. Espandi is the one who renames her Osama. The masquerade becomes more difficult when the Taliban recruit all the local boys for school, which includes military training. At the training school, they are taught how to fight and conduct ablutions, and an ablution is taught to boys that should be done when they experience nocturnal emission or come in contact with their wife when they grow older. Osama attempts to avoid joining the ablution session, and the master grows suspicious of Osama’s gender. Osama realizes it can only be so long before she is found out. Several of the boys begin to pick on her, and although Espandi is at first able to protect her, her secret is eventually discovered when she menstruates.

Osama is arrested and put on trial, along with a Western journalist, and the foreign woman who was arrested in the hospital. The journalist and the nurse are both condemned and put to death, but, as Osama is destitute and helpless, her life is spared; she is instead given in marriage to a much older man. Osama's new husband already has three wives, all of whom hate him and say he has destroyed their lives. They take pity on Osama, but are powerless to help her. The husband shows Osama the padlocks he uses on his wives' rooms, reserving the largest for Osama. The film ends with the new husband conducting an ablution in an outdoor bath, which the boys were earlier taught to conduct after coming in contact with their wives.


  • Marina Golbahari - Osama
  • Arif Herati - Espandi
  • Zubaida Sahar - Mom
  • Gol Rahman Ghorbandi - Lady #1
  • Mohamad Haref Harat - Lady #2
  • Mohamad Nader Khadjeh - Lady #3
  • Khwaja Nader - Jadi
  • Hamida Refah - Rohmi


The director has said that Osama was at least partially inspired by a girl he once met, who disguised herself as a boy to attend school. It has also been said that this film might have been at least partially inspired by a newspaper report in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban {}

The film was shot on location in Kabul, Afghanistan. Work began in June 2002 and was completed in March 2003 with a budget of approximately $46,000 US$. All the actors in the film are amateurs found by the director on the streets of Kabul {}.

According to Marina, a documentary about actress Marina Golbahari shot concurrently with the film. Osama was originally titled Rainbow and ended on a hopeful note, with Osama passing under a rainbow and gaining her freedom. As time went on, the director grew dissatisfied with the ending and changed it and cut out other scenes in the film that expressed hope.


Osama was very well received by the Western cinematic world. It gathered a rating of 96% based on 100 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, a website which tabulates the reviews from professional film critics into a single rating.[3]

Box office

The film was a box office success, grossing $3,888,902 worldwide from a small budget of $46,000.[2]

Awards and nominations

Bratislava International Film Festival (2003)

  • Awarded "Special Mention"
  • Nominated "Grand Prix for F1"

Cannes Film Festival (2003)

  • Awarded "AFCAE Award"
  • Awarded "Cannes Junior Award"
  • Awarded "Golden Camera - Special Mention"

Cinemanila International Film Festival (2004)

  • Awarded "Best Actress" - Marina Golbahari, tied with Katherine Luna for Babae sa Breakwater
  • Nominated "Lino Brocka Award"

Golden Globes, USA (2004)

  • Awarded "Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film" - Afghanistan

Golden Satellite Awards (2004)

  • Nominated "Golden Satellite Award Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language" - Afghanistan/Iran

Golden Trailer Awards (2004)

  • Won "Golden Trailer Best Foreign"

London Film Festival (2004)

  • Won Sutherland Trophy

Molodist International Film Festival (2003)

  • Won "Best Film Award Best Full-Length Fiction Film"
  • Won "Best Young Actor Award" - Marina Golbahari

Busan International Film Festival (2003)

  • Won "New Currents Award" - Special Mention
  • Won "PSB Audience Award", tied with Seontaek

Valladolid International Film Festival (2003)

Young Artist Awards (2004)

  • Nominated "Young Artist Award Best International Feature Film"

See also


  1. ^ (12A)"OSAMA".  
  2. ^ a b c Osama at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ (2003)"Osama".  

External links

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