Secret Ballot

"Good"

Secret Ballot Review


You'll be hard pressed to find a more un-Hollywood movie released this year than the Iranian film Secret Ballot. Writer/director Babak Payami is a fan of both the long shot and the long take, and while the movie's visuals are often striking, the tortoise-like pacing can be quite exhausting. Payami is a clever and charming enough filmmaker to keep the viewer involved, but frustration can easily set in when you realize that the director probably could have cut many of the scenes in half and not lost a single thing. That being said, Secret Ballot is still a film so earnest and well intentioned, one can't help but feel a bit guilty criticizing it.

The setting is an island off the coast of Iran, which is experiencing its first free election. The Iranian government is so intent on its citizens voting that they actually send an election agent, ballot box in hand, to the various communities on the island to collect votes. This agent (Nassim Abdi), much to the surprise of the soldier (Cyrus Ab) who is assigned to drive the ballot box and the agent around the island, is a woman. These two people, who will spend an adventurous day together, are proverbial polar opposites.

The agent and soldier travel from one group of voters to the next, and their differences quickly (well, in this film, nothing is too quick) rise to the surface. The agent represents the voice of the new, more liberal Iran, while the soldier is a symbol of the conservative past. As they encounter various situations and people on the desert island, each is forced to re-examine his or her own ideals.

Despite its content, Secret Ballot doesn't feel like a political movie. The exchanges between the agent and soldier are usually very light and occasionally comical. There's something so inoffensive about its outlook, and so objective in its point of view, that the film is almost as maddening as it is admirable. To be fair, Payami does take a stance, no matter how subtle, on some issues, most notably the tradition of gender roles and the continued subservience of women in Iranian life -- a stark contrast to the forward-thinking progress made in other aspects of the culture.

The film's compositions are exquisite, taking full advantage of open space and allowing the characters to move comfortably within the frame. The actors are all non-professionals and perform well enough in mainly one-dimensional roles. This film is really a showcase for the director and, for the most part, Payami proves up to the task. If nothing else, he certainly stamps a distinct imprint on the movie, although taking some editorial advice in the future might be to his benefit.

Secret Ballot is a well-made film, and a nice alternative for American moviegoers seeking a change of pace. It may not be the most immediate or attention-grabbing work, but there's certainly something satisfying in its thoughtfulness. In a summer bloated with cinematic excess, that alone is a refreshing reward.

Aka Raye makhfi.



Secret Ballot

Facts and Figures

Run time: 123 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th October 2001

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as girl, Cyrus Abidi as Soldier

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.