Secret Ballot

It is kind of ironic that a movie that espouses the democratic process so fervently comes from Iran. Secret Ballot is more fervent about voting than any other process in recent memory. The movie is similar in style to most movies that come out of Iran nowadays. It was written and directed by Babek Payami (One More Day) based on an idea by Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Kandahar, The Day I Became A Woman) and stars non-actors. What is missing this time is a deeper sense of meaning. Secret Ballot is more straightforward than other Iranian movies, and because of a relatively simple message, it feels like something is missing.

Secret Ballot is partially the story about two people. A soldier (Cyrus Abidi) and a girl (Nassim Abdi) must spend the day together traveling around a small island. The girl's job is to locate people so they can vote in the local election. Initially, the two do not get off to a good start. In any Hollywood movie, this means that by the end, the two are in love. Here, it means that Payami can explore the differences between the two that eventually lead not necessarily to friendship, but to respect for each other. The soldier is expecting a man, and the girl is expecting efficiency and enthusiasm.

She is fanatical about the importance of everybody having the opportunity to cast a vote, contrasted to his near indifference. He sees no real point, and some of the islanders agree with him. Yet others go to great lengths to find her. They live in a remote rural area with unpaved roads, little electricity, and few cars, and Payami is using the various people that the two meet to show some of the different views on the democratic process and life in general.

Billed as a "human comedy," Secret Ballot's concept begins to wear thin. There is not much going on at some points, and the girl is so ardent that she sometimes comes off as annoying. That, and there is little comedy. The only meaningful things happen when the two encounter people. One woman is young enough to wed, but not old enough to vote. Some people disagree with the entire list of candidates, and others feel it is wrong for women to vote at all. The negative experiences are enough to test the girl's unwavering confidence in her beliefs, and her conviction is enough to cause the soldier to question his indifference.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Farsi with English subtitles, Rated G.

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