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So boring, so pointless
Review: Babak Payami's "Secret Ballot"

By I.X.
October 2, 2002
The Iranian

Simply leave a camcorder on for two hours in any part of the Middle East and you will achieve precisely what Babak Payami's Secret Ballot does. Nothing. It has no plot, no theme, no sense of humor, no direction, no anything. It is soul- less, lifeless, flavourless, colorless and as barren as the seaside desert in takes place in. In fact it is so dearth that a biblical verse comes to mind: You Are Neither Hot Or Cold So I Spit You Out of My Mouth. And spit you would and heartily should.

Should you be amongst the unfortunate who got bamboozled into seeing this remarkably lousy flick, you have my deepest sympathy. The tragedy of this is that this is a film that should have never been made. Period. It is totally void of any meaningful content and instead follows a pencil-pushing bureaucrat about shamelessly pointless protocol that is ubiquitous in any corner of our world. Highlighting such common phenomenon ismeaningless, especially where and when there are far more important and interesting things to address.

The first 10 minutes of the movie consists of a man carrying a large box across the screen, laying it down, opening it, reading a letter inside, then a minute later a boat in the background brings in a lady who gets off the boat, goes towards the box, opens the box, reads the note inside. Sound like fun?? 10 minutes!!! You can use your stop watch to verify this for yourself.

So bad is this film that it takes even less than those first 10 minutes to put you to sleep. In fact only a few minutes into the film, and a friend of mine was sure enough taking some Zzzz's. Who could blame her? So slow, so boring, so pointless is this film that if you lack a life of your own and want to see someones uselss pointless bureaucratic existence, it could be the perfect cure for your insomnia. This female friend of mine, even after being awakened 3 times, fell asleep 4. I insisted on waking her up for misery loves company but I ultimately let her sleep for watching this pointless film really is cruel and unusual punishment.

On the more positive side, if you want to exercise more flexibility, then this is the perfect movie for you, for without question you will succeed in kicking yourself in the ass for being stupid enough to see it even when herein being warned not to. The useless sap of a talentless director should do us all a favor and put a pistol to his head for making this inexcusable travesty of a flick, as should the half wits who bothered releasing this in the first place.

The Italians like it? It won some awards there? Good, keep it there, then flush it down the toilet when your done with it. That's about its worth as are those useless saps who dare call themselves movie critics.

So far as any so called "greater meaning" is concerned, you'd fare far better in staring at a blank wall and coming up with imaginary ones, for it is for absolute certain there are bigger fish to fry than this monumentally miniature Persian sardine. Explore the far more interesting dynamics of your own Amish communities and your own backward mountain hicks for further enlightenment than this mindless aimless purposeless useless trash travesty of a film.

Far more interesting topics under the sun on any given continent - that is for certain. The Persians should cry that this farce of a movie even exists for it is a mockery of their true talent, interest, focus and potential. Weep ye Persians, weep.


Secret Ballot has been showing at U.S. theaters since Augus 9, 2002
Drama and comedy
1 hr. 45 min.
Starring: Cyrus Ab, Farrokh Sho, Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi
Directed by: Babak Payami
Produced by: Babak Payami, Marco Muller
Written by: Babak Karimi, Babak Payami
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

A soldier stationed on a deserted beach wakes up and discovers that it's not going to be an ordinary day: there are the elections, but nobody seems to know anything about them. Just as an electoral urn is being parachuted from the sky, a young woman disembarks on the beach.

To the soldier's bafflement, it turns out that she is in charge of the mobile electoral seat and voting on the islands; therefore the soldier is obliged to obey her orders and escort her with his rifle and army jeep across the desert, where the woman obstinately intends to collect the votes. During the day, stressed by a series of absurd events, the two learn to get to know each other.

At sunset, when the young woman leaves, the man realizes that the secret vote contained much more than he had ever imagined.

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