Rojin is a young Kurdish-Iraqi woman about to take the university entrance exam. Rojin's unhappily married older sister Shilan will do anything to help her pass, hoping to give her a more emancipated life.
“If you don’t pass the exams you’ll have to get married.”
The Exam is the latest International Feature submission for Iraq. Director Shawkat Amin Korki has created an intense, very focused drama about desperation and how far people are willing to go to try to escape their trapped lives. Or their future lives.
Set in Kurdistan, the film is about two sisters, Rojin and Shilan. Rojin is about to take her exams to try to get into university and Shilan is willing to do anything to make sure she succeeds in them. Getting to university is the only option. Shilan is trapped in a loveless marriage with a man who is exceedingly controlling. And the same fate is guaranteed for Rojin if she fails to gain admission into the university. Her father has already set her up with a man she strongly dislikes.
The problem is that Rojin is having difficulties studying and she isn’t the brightest student. So what’s their option? Shilan seems to have found the answer.
The Exam is a suspenseful drama that shows the domestic terrors that occur in oppressive patriarchal societies. These two sisters want to have the choice to decide what they want to do in regards to their education, their marriages and their day to day lives. This hard-hitting, distressing film shows the vulnerabilities that women face in Iraq and other societies that don’t allow them to make decisions about anything.
Can you just imagine the pressure if your entire future depends on a set of exams? How far are you willing to go? And if you do make it to university, then what? There just isn’t a happy ending for anyone.
Shilan tells Rojin to “not let anyone make you do something that you don’t want to do.” And the tragic circumstances to make that statement true is all too often occurring for women across the world. It’s the most important exam question: life or death.