- Actors: Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi, Farrokh Shoja, Gholbahar Janghali
- Directors: Babak Payami
- Writers: Babak Payami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf
- Producers: Babak Payami, Hooshangh Payami, Marco Mueller
- Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
- Language: Persian
- Subtitles: English, French
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Canadian Home Video Rating : General Audience (G)
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Release Date: Jan. 7 2003
- Run Time: 123 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00007CVRU
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,109 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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Secret Ballot (Sous-titres français)
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Award winner at five international film festivals, writer/director Babak Payami's SECRET BALLOT is a satirical comedy that humorously sheds light on the universal discrepancies of the voting process and gender differences. It's Election Day on a remote island off the coast of Iran and a ballot box is parachuted to shore. An unnamed soldier is assigned to escort a female bureaucrat to gather votes. Together, they embark on a chaotic journey, turning the island upside down, desperately seeking anyone's vote! There is more to the SECRET BALLOT than the two could ever imagine!
This gentle, low-key comedy follows a female civil servant of an Islamic country (presumably Iran, but specifics aren't given) as she travels around a sparsely populated island, trying to get the inhabitants to vote on election day. Her efforts are both helped and hindered by the reluctant soldier who has been assigned to accompany her--but far more significant hurdles are language barriers, deep-seated gender prejudices, and mechanical breakdowns. The civil servant struggles to maintain her faith in democratic processes in the face of indifference, antagonism, and absurdity. When someone tells her, "Voting doesn't catch fish," she has no reply, yet perseveres in her attempt to make the world better. Secret Ballot is slow-paced, but the movie's rhythms suit the world it depicts. Nassim Abdi, as the civil servant, gives a wonderfully engaging performance; her innocent, open face captures both the humor and the sadness in her struggle. --Bret Fetzer
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"Secret Ballot" is about an incongrous pair: one laconic soldier guarding somewhere on the sleepy coast of an unnamed island in Iran, and a talkative female civil servant coming there to collect votes for the election. The latter has to complete her job by 5 p.m., and the soldier, to his great dismay, is ordered to accompany her around the island.
The small tour is filled with episodes concerning their task. and not many islanders are friendly to her. Or they just don't understand her job. In spite of her lofty idealism and unstoppable energy, her job turns out nothing smooth because of the differences of belief, custom, and language. And so many unexpected things happen to her -- one of the votes is even hidden under a rock.
To see her doing at best (still not without disillusion about democracy in general) makes you see the point of the film clear, but there is another asset to the film, an underplayed romantic aspect between the two leads. Watching over her never-ending struggle, the soldier, who was at first very hostile, gradually changes his attitudes towards her. As the appointed time for her to leave comes near, we also understand his feelings to her in his words, which are in themselves very few. Don't miss that point, and that's why a slightly surprise ending gives the entire film more pathos than you expect. No longer this island is a sleepy place for the soldier.
As is often the case with Iranian films, "Secret Ballot" is slow-paced and would require your patience. In case you feel sleepy (I confess I did), you might know the following facts about the film. The two leads are in fact non-professionals, and the heroine Nassim Abidi is a student majoring in journalism in college. The director managed to persuade her to join in the film despite the great reluctance on her side. This episode may sound unbelievable when you see her very natural acting on the screen, which is one of the merits of teh film. The soldier's player Cyrus Abidi is recruited for the role in the shopping center in the Kish Island where the film was shot. Actually, it was after the original person who was to play the role bailed out.
The film is, as I said, shot on the beautiful Kish island on the Persian Gulf, and the island is known as one of the resort places of Iran. If you want to see more of this beautiful place, see another Iranian film "The Day I Became a Woman."
All in all, "Secret Ballot" is an amusing and thought-provoking film. The director Babak Payami, who was born in Iran but had lived in Canada for nearly twenty years until 1998, has a knack for realizing the atomosphere of the place. The film's long sequence may be called overused, and the running time should be shorter than now, "Secret Ballot" is a charming film, especially because of its bitter-sweet ending. Don't follow the story; watch this one very slowly.
A half-hour late, a small motorboat lands on the beach, and off clambers the agent - a modern young woman complete with chador and a missionary zeal for her job, which must be completed by 5:00 PM. At first, the soldier on duty is reluctant to do the agent's bidding. After all, she's a woman, and this is Islamic Iran. However, after she waves the undeniable fact of "his orders" in his face, off they bounce in a jeep to harvest ballots for the box. The film's screenplay does not provide names for the agent or the soldier, but they're played by Nassim Abdi and Cyrus Abidi respectively.
The humor and pace of SECRET BALLOT is much like the island itself - sleepy. In fact, you may need a large java to stay focused on the English subtitles of the Farsi dialogue. But the film isn't without a gentle charm, especially if you're curious about the world around you and you've not been to this corner of it.
The soldier is, to put it charitably, a stolid, unimaginative sort. But he does know the pulse of the island. During the day's rounds, the agent, her idealism, and the "approved list" of candidates (from which each voter must select two) are confronted by the realities of the local electorate, e.g., woman who won't vote without instructions from their men, men who won't vote because their candidates aren't on the list, and a religious fundamentalist who insists on Allah as a write-in candidate. At day's end, the agent and the soldier see each other in a different light, and each is the better for it. We first suspect the change in perhaps the movie's most humorous scene when the soldier halts the jeep at a red light in the middle of nowhere with no other moving vehicles in sight.
SECRET BALLOT has no eye-popping special FX, white-knuckle action, belly laughs, or stunning dramatic moments. But I'm giving it a marginal thumbs-up because it's a small window on a world much different than my own, and I appreciate the perspicacity of the view.
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Most recent customer reviews
What a wonderful, charming little film!
And it's very, very funny!
I loved it and laughed out loud many, many times. My 20-year old son didn't get it, though.Read more