Secret Ballot (film)
Secret Ballot is a 2001 Iranian film. It was directed by Babak Payami. The film covers a day in the life of a female voting agent collecting votes on an island in Iran.
The story begins at a small, two-man army post on a remote island. It is voting day, and an election agent is due to arrive by boat. A young woman arrives, collects the official voting box, and demands that the soldier on duty escort her around the island. They climb into a military jeep and begin driving around, looking for voters. The nameless woman is totally dedicated to her duty, a true believer in the importance of voting, a tireless worker, rather voluble and certainly not submissive. This confuses and angers the dim-witted soldier, who feels that a man should be the voting agent. Chador and all, she's clearly a liberated woman, a "city gal" as described by the soldier.
The couple-by-necessity do eventually (jeep trouble aside) scour the land to find eligible voters among the sparse locals. The trek starts in a desert and gradually moves to somewhat greener places. It is educational for both parties. They encounter a variety of people (mostly illiterate peasants) and situations, which simultaneously instructs the two roamers and the audience. By the end of the film, only a few people have voted, and the young woman is largely disillusioned about the entire process. Several people refused to vote for the "approved" candidates, and one voted for her.
''Ra'ye makhfiwas filmed entirely in Kish Island, a resort island in the Persian Gulf although it is not mentioned in the movie. In fact the setting looks like a semi-barren landscape that could be a mainland or an island. There, by the sea, on a desert beach, two soldiers stand guard against smugglers. Apparently, the locals are not particularly fluent in Persian, the national language of Iran, with some speaking in gulf dialect Arabic. On several occasions, the election agent is frustrated by the language barrier. Also, it is implied that a number of foreign nationals are present on the island -- they are not eligible to vote, of course. The locals are very strict Islamists; some of the women even wear face masks in public. Women are completely submissive to the wishes of their men, and will not vote unless given permission.
A serious natural, sly, or tongue-in-cheek humor emerges in this realistic, ethnographic, patriotic work that is quite outspoken which stresses isolation, not poverty. And it is not bound by politically correct limitations. The city girl, commenting on the minimum voting age, says of a local "She can marry at 12 but she cannot vote."
Director Payami uses minimalism in Raye makhfi'', letting a small spectrum of sociopolitical stances emerge naturally, and often humorously. For instance, there is a traffic light in the middle of a desert, but it is stuck on red.
Payami also has a pronounced use of long shots and long takes with shooting scenes continuously for three minutes or more. This directly impacts upon the mood in the film.
Nassim Abdi as Girl
Cyrus Abidi as Soldier
In 2001, the film won:
*the FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention at the London Film Festival
*the Special Jury Award at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival
*the Best New Director at the Valladolid International Film Festival*the Netpac Award, the OCIC Award, the Pasinetti Award (Best film), the Special Director's Award and the UNICEF Award at the Venice Film Festival
and was nominated for the Golden Spike (Valladolid IFF) and the Golden Lion (Venice FF).
In 2002, it won the Jury Award at the Newport International Film Festival
In 2003, it was nominated for the PFS Award (Democracy) at the Political Film Society, USA.