Each generation seems to have it harder in different ways than the previous ones. Today’s teenagers have to deal with a myriad of pressures (not that previous ones did not) like cyber bullying, the escalation and acceptance of hate/racism/etc, the threat of terrorism of all types, a degrading planetary ecosystem, pressure all around them about body size and how to look, and many other things. It ain’t easy. Us older people tend to think that teenagers have it easy with a lack of responsibilities, ease of life due to technological advances and the fact that they don’t have to walk uphill in snow two miles back and forth from school. Ok, maybe the last one was a bit of joke, but you know what I mean.

Director Sonia K. Hadad’s film Exam deals with some of those pressures which have been heaped on teenagers. This is a rather extreme case here. A teenage girl is sitting at a table at home studying. Looking at her watch she realizes it is time to go. As she starts making that move her father tells her he needs her to deliver a package to someone now. She pleads that she is late for school and has an exam. Her father does not seem to care and insists she delivers the package.

| photo by Alireza Barazandeh. ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’

The person she is to meet is late and it is getting closer and closer to the time for her exam. She makes the choice to leave without handing off the package. She arrives in school and in her class there is to be a random inspection of all the girls’ bags to see it they have anything they are not supposed to like make up or cell phones. The girl is obviously concerned. She is afraid that they will find the package she did not deliver. Now she is going to go to any length not be caught with it including endangering herself.

The film has been screened at many film festival including Sundance winning 10 awards and counting. The almost 15 minute run time of the short film focuses almost entirely on the teenage girl – her face, words and actions. The young actress Sadaf Asgari (Disappearance, Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness) really owns the screen. Not only embodying a teenager, but also one who is forced to think quickly on her feet not once but twice in a short span of time. It is a great performance by a young actress.

Expertly director Hadad allows the tension to build throughout to a climax moment. Though the story is nothing too complex it is enough to keep you in its grips. In its short time it does allow the viewer a window into a few of the issues relevant to modern day Iran.

It is one of those short films that you feel like it ended too soon and you are left wanting more. Wanting to get to know more about this young girl’s story.

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