Movie Short Review: ‘Exam’

Greetings again from the darkness. Who among us hasn’t snuck some outlawed item into school? Maybe it was a comic book, or perhaps a stick of gum. The stakes are a bit higher in this short film from writer-director Sonia K Hadad and co-writer Farnoosh Samadi, both Iranian filmmakers.

Sadaf Asgari plays a student who is cramming for her exam. Not only is she running late, but she’s obviously not prepared as we see her writing crib notes on both arms. As she heads out, her father enlists her for a “package” delivery. She’s stressed over being late for the exam, but her father gives her no choice. When the “customer” doesn’t show up, she heads to school.

The administrators of her strict Islamic school announce a “random bag check”, and the anxiety level skyrockets for both Sadaf and us as viewers. Excellent filmmaking occurs over the excruciating few minutes as the teacher makes her way through the room, towards Sadaf’s bag. Cell phones, perfume, and hair-styling wands are confiscated as Sadaf slyly and calmly works to hide that package her father burdened her with.

This is a tension-packed 14 minute thriller that reminds us of how women of all ages are treated in Iran. As if the pressure of school wasn’t enough for Sadaf, it’s elevated for her due to familial and cultural demands. Lost youth often occurs before it’s ever grasped, which is the case here. Sadaf Asgari is exceptional in the role, and her performance was recognized at Sundance.

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