The first Afghan film made after the fall of the Taliban, Osama is Iranian-inspired in its combination of neorealism and surreal visions (not surprising, since Mohsen Mahlkmalbaf's Film House helped create it). As the Taliban rise to power, a young girl disguises herself as a boy to survive, a task that grows more difficult after she is ordered into compulsory religious and military training. Aided by a love-struck street tough, she must protect herself from curious schoolmates, thuggish soldiers, and an elderly mullah whose intentions seem far more earthly than spiritual. Director Barmak headed the Afghan Film Organization before fleeing to Pakistan after the rise of the Taliban; Osama was made on his return. Winner of the London Film Festival's Sutherland Trophy for “most original and imaginative film,” it places Barmak alongside his Iranian mentors Abbas Kiarostami and Mahlkmalbaf as an artist capable of creating poetry out of despair.

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