The Opening Night
The Dream of Shahrazad
Francois Verster, South Africa
Languages: Arabic, English, and Turkish (subtitled in Arabic and English)
Royal Film Commission
5th September 2015
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 2014 in the prestigious Masters Section of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), has already been invited to over thirty festivals in 25 countries around the world. It won the Best Documentary in Progress Award at Sunny Side of the Doc in 2012, as well as the Al-Husseini Abu-Deif/Artwatch Africa award for the best Freedom Film at the Luxor African Film Festival 2015. It was a finalist for the FIPRESCI award at Documentarist 2015, and won the Best South African Documentary Award. The jury praised the film for the way in which “the filmmakers pushed themselves beyond their comfort zone, taking mythology and bringing it into the centre of modernity,” and for being “an ambitious film… [that] addresses life post-revolution and what is left after heartbreak.”
THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD was also awarded by the jury the Best Television (Ex-aequo) at the “International Meeting of Cinema, Television, Video and Multimedia – AVANCA 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, the European Union and Afri Docs. It was produced by Verster in collaboration with Wael Omar of Middlewest Films; Shameela Seedat of Undercurrent Film and Television and Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media, and in coproduction 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).