In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where the lives of girls and women are rigidly controlled and confined, a desperate widow cuts her 12-year-old daughter’s hair, dresses her in boy’s clothes, and sends her out into the city so she can work to support her mother and grandmother. Filmmaker Siddiq Barmak, a resident of Kabul who spent the Taliban years in exile in Pakistan, returned home after the fall of that theocratic regime to make an astonishing feature film debut with this horrifying, heartbreaking story. “Osama,” as the girl (Marina Golbahari) is called, lives in terror of being discovered, and through her eyes we witness, with ever increasing anger, the brutality and the rage and the pitilessness of the mullahs… as well as the kindness of some men and the hopelessness underpinned with strength of all Afghan women under the regime. Barmak, in the first Afghan film made since the rise and fall of the Taliban, gives us vistas of stark beauty in this beaten-up landscape, a desolate backdrop for the beaten-down faces of his human palette. As a portrait of survival and resistance alone, this would be an unforgettable film, but combined with the knowledge that not very much has changed since the fall of the Taliban and the rise, once again, of the warlords, this becomes unimaginably haunting: Osama isn’t a document of near history, it’s an illustration of the horrors that weak men continue to perpetrate using intolerant religion as a weapon.