As this film opens, we see a teenage girl cramming for a test and eating breakfast. She looks visibly stressed and gets argumentative with her dad when he tells her she has to do a delivery. She explains she is already late and she has an exam today. The house appears middle class. The scene is almost monochromatic except for a maroon table cloth. She’s wearing a loose black hijab and a grey turtle neck sweater. A laptop lies open on the table while she is pouring over a book, repeating out loud words, trying to commit them to memory, and resorting to writing answers on her wrist as she studies.
She’s irritated. Her father doesn’t seem to care that she has an exam; this delivery is more important.
She quietly leaves the house while her dad is preparing the small cocaine packet. She begins walking to school and her cell phone rings. She answers it and tries bargaining with her dad saying she’ll deliver the drugs later. By the end of the call, she dutifully walks back to her house.
EXAM takes place in contemporary Iran, but this writer sees this young woman’s behavior as characteristic of teenagers not just from Iran but from almost any culture or countries. We see her glare at her father, and then roll her eyes at him, as she begrudgingly turns around so he can hide the cocaine packet in her wallet inside her backpack.
He’ll give you cash.
Where am I going to take all that cash? To school?
Then, tell him to wire the money. Now go.
EXAM is a Test to Survive
Outside the sky is opaque, white and dreary. The asphalt street is grey. She walks alone taking careful steps with her Doc Marten-like, studded boots over the broken sidewalk. She puts her hands inside her pockets, pulling her jacket tighter against the morning chill. The film doesn’t end here. Without giving away the rest of the film, suffice it to say that despite quick thinking and creativity in an impossible predicament, this teen is on a perilous journey.
This is a very tightly-woven, narrative short. In 14 minutes and 55 sec film in which we get a brief, intimate look into a young woman’s life. The EXAM is a top pick for everyone who enjoys concise, suspenseful storytelling, carefully framed shots, and minimal dialogue. It is especially recommended for international film enthusiasts, and viewers interested in films directed by women.
The language is Persian, available with subtitles.
Director: Sonia K. Hadad
Producer: Pouria Heidary Oureh
Writers: Sonia K. Hadad, Famoosh Samadi
Editor Ehsan Vaseghi
Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Hadis Miramini, Masih Kazemi, Elaheh Afshar
Images courtesy of THE EXAM.
About the Author:
Ms. Hoffman has a degree in art and her life’s work has been environmentally and politically focused. After community organizing on both coasts, she had a career as an educator in Southern California. Now, semi-retired, Ms. Hoffman leads an active, outdoor lifestyle, continues to advocate for the environment and travels. She is especially fond of art, film, cultural events and is an ardent, live music fan. She loves adventure travel including camping, hiking, kayaking, rafting and road biking.