The main problem with Osama is that the lead is just too pretty. Let me qualify this, she is supposed to be eleven after all and one has to watch oneself about statements like that. She looks too much like a girl. Problem, she is the latest in a long line of fictional heroines trying to pass herself off in a mans world as a man herself. With her girlish voice, girly face and having to regularly encounter a communal bath-house, the biggest surprise is that she lasts as long as she does. This gives the central part of the film a deathly tension, it is the Taliban who will punish her when she is found out, and we know the Taliban aren’t exactly softies. Considering the film plays on this terror, it is somewhat disappointing how she is finally found out. Put it like this, it is not a subtle tell-tale sign.

The cross dressing girl is a not unfamiliar folk story. Therefore what Osama has to offer most is novelty in its setting. Afghanistan under the Taliban is a place of hearsay, and to be fair this is a film with a film political agenda so it should not be seen to be any more reliable. What is narratively so disappointing about the film however is playing with the audience so well in the first half, robbing us of some of the pleasure of a redemptive finale. When you consider the kind of plot which could have been teased out of ‘girl goes to learn how to fight, then fights back’, it is quite clear that there is a firmly tragic agenda involved. An impressive film which seems happier to be a political document than the true thriller it starts off as.