Secret Ballot
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Secret Ballot This gentle comedy from Iran has a remarkably charming central plot surrounding a series of brief vignettes examining various issues in society. It tells the story of one extraordinary day in the life of a soldier (Abidi) stationed at a remote island outpost. He wakes up in the morning to find a ballot box--today is election day. Then the soldier is more than a little shocked to find that the arriving voting official is a woman (Abdi). As he reluctantly escorts her around collecting votes, he is forced to think about things he has never even considered--the role of the sexes, the meaning of democracy, the people he shares this essentially deserted space with.

The film feels long and episodic, as it moves from one encounter to the next without really building a narrative drive. But it's still disarming and fresh, as it lightly brushes up against serious issues that have universal significance. And the softly developing relationship between the central duo is consistently clever and engaging. There's plenty of humour, sharp wit and irony laced in here, including a few laugh-out-loud moments of inspired absurdity. The setting is so bleak and foreboding, that the warmth and/or sharpness of the characters is a terrific contrast. And like most all Iranian films, it feels so real that it's like we're watching a fly-on-the-wall doc. OK, so it's all a bit stark and simplistic in its approach, almost feeling like a political education film at times. But there's actually a lot going on that makes it well worth a look.

cert U themes 12.Aug.02

dir-scr Babak Payami
with Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi Farrokh Shojaii, Gholbahar Janghali
release US 9.Aug.02; UK 6.Sep.02
02/Iran 1h46

Vote! The roving ballot box is presented to one of the disgruntled residents of a deserted island community...

see also: Payami's Silence Between Two Thoughts
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
Secret Ballot send your review to Shadows... Anne, Minnesota: 5/5 "I had to brave up to check out this film, as my ignorance and hesitation about the muslim religion is strong (because of my ignorance most likely). Geez, what did I find?! Humor, wit, intelligence and yes, the clothing is different (rather likable, actually) but all the people were like people right here, right now. It was a gift to be able to see this film and I hope to see more like it. Clean. Wonderful. Good." (10.Feb.05)
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall