Secret Ballot review

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It's election day on a remote island in the Persian Gulf, and a sullen soldier (Cyrus Abidi) is given the duty of escorting a young female official (Nassim Abdi) around the area to collect the votes.

Few of the locals, however, are familiar with the practicalities of filling in a ballot form. Some are out fishing at sea, others are at a funeral, and one man insists that he will only vote for Allah...

Inspired by Mohsen Makhmalbaf's short Testing Democracy, Secret Ballot is an amusingly absurdist fable. It maintains a gently surreal atmosphere from its opening shots of a ballot- box being parachuted on to a secluded beach, and Iranian-born director Babak Payami successfully observes the contradictions of a democracy where a woman can marry at 12 but can't vote until 16.

Admittedly, the long, static takes won't be to everyone's quick-fix tastes, but there's no denying Payami's tender treatment of the developing relationship between the two leads.

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