Directed by Babak Payami. 2001.
As the soldier drives her around the island in his jeep, the quest for votes leads to one absurd situation after another. The unlikely pair meets a man running across the desert that the soldier suspects of being a smuggler and has to persuade him to vote by pointing his gun at him. They must also contend with a truckload of women and a single man who insists on casting all of their votes for them. In other situations, women in a nomadic camp refuse to vote without permission of the men who are out fishing, and a Muslim at a solar energy site will vote for only one candidate -- GOD -- who isn't even on the ballot. In one of the more surreal episodes, the soldier refuses to drive past a red traffic light standing in the middle of the desert even though he knows it is broken and will never turn green.
Simplistic ideas about
the value of democracy are tested against the reality that the islanders
must face. One potential voter asks the official, "What do you know about
us and our problems? We have to hide our feelings here." In another case,
women cannot vote because they are forbidden to look at the photographs
of the male candidates. Another time, the official cannot register the
votes of men at a cemetery because women are forbidden to enter the sacred
ground. It is not clear if the film was made to promote democracy or to
show it as being ludicrous. Apparently the Iranian officials took it seriously
because the film was banned in Iran. What is clear is that unless an electorate
is informed and feels a stake in the outcome, the process of voting is
a sham and, as the protagonists in Secret Ballot found out, cannot
be imposed with high minded speeches or a gun pointed at the voter's head.
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