The Multi-award Winning Homegrown Documentary
The Dream of Shahrazad to Screen at the Labia TheatreFrancois Verster's The Dream of Shahrazad, which recently won two SAFTA (South African Film and Television) awards; Best Documentary Film and Best Directing in a Documentary, will be screened at Cape Town's The Labia Theatre starting April 8th.
Says Verster, "This is a delightful opportunity for those who have not yet seen the film to view it in a proper cinematic setting with good picture and sound - and wonderful for me personally in that I have been a regular patron and fan of the Labia Theatre since the late 1980s".
The Dream of Shahrazad explores recent social and political events in Turkey and Cairo through the lens of the famous story collection The 1001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights), using the fabled storytelling princess Shahrazad as a metaphor to explore how creativity and political articulation can coincide against oppression. A Turkish youth orchestra conductor uses Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade suite as a tool for political education; a young Lebanese actress reconciles her past by becoming an internet activist in Egypt; an older visual artist finds his "dream of Shahrazad" in the appearance of a beautiful young storyteller; an Alexandrian storyteller together with a Cairean theatre troupe meets with the mothers of martyrs of the Revolution and turns their testimonies into new storytelling performances.
The film, which was launched in the prestigious Masters Section of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), has been shown at festivals around the world and garnered various other awards including the Best Documentary in Progress Award at Sunny Side of the Doc in 2012, the Al-Husseini Abu-Deif/Artwatch Africa award for the best Freedom Film at the Luxor African Film Festival 2015, the Best South African Documentary at the Durban Film Festival 2015 and the Best International Television Film at the Avanca Awards 2015.
The Dream of Shahrazad received support from the South African National Film & Video Foundation, the IDFA/Bertha Fund, the Sundance Documentary Fund, Spier Films, the CBA Worldview Fund, the Netherlands Film Fund, and the European Union and Afri Docs.
It was produced by Verster in collaboration with Wael Omar of Middlewest Films; Shameel Seedat of Undercurrent Film and Television and Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media, and in co-production with Fleur Knopperts and Denis Vaslin of Volya Films (Netherlands),
Lucas Rosant of Melia Films (France), and Serene Huleileh and Reem Abu Kishek of the Hakaya Regional Network (Jordan).
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A selection of press and other responses follows.
"A phenomenal interweaving of fantasy [with documentary reality]... a film which leaves you gasping for breath."- Elretha Britz, DIE VOLKSBLAD
"Sheer and wondrous, and packed with so much humanity that [there is] little to say, except to express utmost admiration... This story, and [the film's] interpretation of it, conquers the fear that inhabits living. It really does at its profoundest make us live more cogently... a treasure."- Andrew Whaley, playwright.
"Memories of the Arab Spring are difficult to conjure from the debris of counter-revolution. By recording and amplifying the faint reverberations of Shahrazad's search for justice, The Dream of Shahrazad finds hope in the artists and storytellers of the revolution. Verster's masterpiece upends the documentarian's focus on the objective and the real by exploring the narratives that serve our collective political will and agency, the subconscious of a revolution. Amidst the exhilarations and disappointments of the Arab Spring, the callousness of political opportunists and manipulators face up to the best that art inspires, the stories and music that make us into caring citizens of the world." - David Gordon, Professor of African History, Bowdoin College
"[The] movie juxtaposes the auditory and the visual to the point of making both sublime. The contradiction, however, rends the heart and it wounds the soul..." - Peter Edmund Richards
"Documentary films about the Arab Spring have been flourishing these past few years, in an attempt to apply an appropriate narrative to the troubling time the Middle East region was going through. One of the most accurate films is The Dream of Shahrazad, precisely because it was not meant to focus on these events... The director looked at the broader perspective: as a foreigner, he allowed himself to take some distance and reflect on what he was witnessing.. Verster neither follows nor interrogates [his characters]; through the storytelling, he manages to depict the reality of the artistic aspect of their life and to collect their feelings and opinions, in relation to the events unfolding in Egypt at the time... The film ends without trying to foresee what will happen... It stands open to many political possibilities, just as there are many potential endings to Sheherazade's own story." - Cléo Fatoorehchi, Opinion Internationale
"This documentary explores in detail the very human necessity to tell stories and the collection of ways in which they can be depicted... A wonderful understanding of the complexity of the issues is created, though the incredibly clever choice, to show found footage of the violence, all set to the classical music written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. These images are cut next to discussion from the artist and people who are still left reeling by these events. It's wonderful to watch because it gives us one of the clearest and fullest understandings of the emotional movement happening right now... This isn't another story about the way things should be being done; it's a story of the way that things are happening." - Ignite Film Fans
"I did not dream last night because I stayed awake thinking about The Dream of Shahrazad ... World, be prepared for this beautiful, complex, layered documentary tribute to the spirit of humanity to endure unspeakable violence. The film is mimetic in this way, breathtaking in form and artistry, with literary and musical overtones sweeping us into the sea and back onto the fiery, dry land..." - Susan Levine, Professor of Visual Anthropology, University of Cape Town