Secret Ballot

Highly entertaining and deceptively simple, this comic road movie (2001, 105 min.) by Iranian-born writer-director Babak Payami traces the prickly relationship between an idealistic woman collecting votes during the Iranian national election and the suspicious rube of a Turkish-Iranian soldier assigned to chauffeur her. The setting is Kish Island in the Persian Gulf (where The Day I Became a Woman was also shot), and the comic clash of personalities sometimes recalls The African Queen. Payami subtly explores just what we–Americans, Iranians, and others–mean by democracy, theoretically as well as practically, and he never loses sight of the fact that this movie was in production while the Florida votes were being counted (or not counted) during the last U.S. presidential election. Beautifully assembled in sound as well as image, the film employs long takes and both realistic and surrealistic touches to let the audience make up its own mind about the characters and varied situations, yet it’s also a finely crafted entertainment that works better than most current Hollywood movies. In Farsi with subtitles. Landmark’s Century Centre.

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