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DVD REVIEWS | fall 2008

DVD WATCH
feminist films available for home viewing

OffsideOffside
Jafar Panahi, director
Panahi, an Iranian whose films are banned in his own country, is known for exposing injustice and persecution. His latest film, shot on the actual day of Iran’s 2005 World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain, focuses on six young women who are die-hard soccer fans. Because women in Iran are officially banned from attending men’s sporting events, they must disguise themselves as men to enter the soccer stadium. The half-dozen are eventually rounded up and placed in a holding pen just out of view of the field, so they—like us—manage to see only glimpses of the game. This lighthearted and humorous film, imbued with the illusion of cinema vérité, condemns Iran’s oppressive treatment of women, but also shows how the gender divide can be tossed aside in the throes of victory. Widely available. —MICHEL CICERO

persepolisPersepolis
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, directors
Adapted from Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, this animated feature uses stark black-and-white drawings to tell a rich and nuanced coming-of-age story. Set in Iran against the backdrop of the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq, the film follows young Marjane as she contradicts her fundamentalist teacher, scoffs at a decidedly overdressed woman model in a life drawing class and barely escapes arrest while buying an Iron Maiden cassette. Ultimately sent to Europe to escape Tehran’s oppressive educational system, Marjane grapples with the universal adolescent feelings of alienation. Satrapi’s art translates seamlessly to cinema, with the abstract quality of her images allowing viewers to project their own experiences into her poignant yet humorous narrative. Widely available. —LILY SIMONSON

Girls Rock'Girls Rock!
Arne Johnson and Shane King, directors
This lively documentary follows four youngsters at a girlsonly, weeklong rock ’n’ roll camp as they learn to compose, play their instruments and, above all, rock out. Imagine the privilege of having Beth Ditto, lead singer of the Gossip, as vocal coach and Carrie Brownstein, guitarist and vocalist of Sleater-Kinney, as a camp counselor. On the downer side, animated interludes provide dismal statistics about women in music and show how girls are underencouraged to make music. Viewers may be amused by the girls whom their co-campers find most excruciating, including Palace, whose mom describes her as “the only 8- year-old who’s concerned about being marketable.” But Palace has a point: Today’s rock audiences usually value female musicians more for their appearance than their creativity. Available from www.girlsrockmovie.com. —NATASHA BAKODY

The Greatest SilenceThe Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo
Lisa F. Jackson, director
Jackson’s documentary is a shocking exposé of the decadeold epidemic of kidnapping, rape and torture in the civilwar- torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along the way she introduces spellbinding real-life characters, from menacing Congolese soldier-rapists to heroic doctors, humanitarian workers and policewomen. Jackson, who was herself gang-raped in the U.S. many years before, shares her story with Congolese victims (who can’t believe her country wasn’t at war when she was sexually assaulted); they respond by recounting the atrocities carried out with impunity by armed militias. Jackson gives voice to some of the 250,000 women who, in the aftermath of sexual violence, have suffered silently, ashamed to tell what has happened to them and shunned by their communities. She also captures their courage and grace. Available from www.wmm.com. —MARTHA BURR