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The Dream of Shahrazad Is the Best South African Documentary at Durban International Film Festival

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An Ambitious Film Brings Mythology to the Heart of Modernity

The Dream of Shahrazad Is the Best South African Documentary at Durban International Film Festival


Francois Verster's The Dream of Shahrazad won the Best South African Documentary at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), which wrapped up on Sunday July 26th.

In an official statement, the jury commented that the prize was granted to the film due to its style 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."

Francois Verster's documentary, The Dream of Shahrazad, had its World Premiere within the Masters programme of the 27th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) last November. This section assembles works by the cream of the crop of the world's documentary film auteurs. The film also received Al-Husseini Abou-Deif Prize for Best Freedom Film at Luxor African Film Festival, and has been part of several film festivals including the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, where it had a full-house screening, and most recently recently in D-CAF Festival (Down Town Contemporary Arts Festival).

The Dream of Shahrazad traces the recent developments on the political and social levels in Egypt and Turkey in an unusually captivating way. Greatly inspired by the exotically famed story collection of 1001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights), the film merges music with political content and deploys the illustrious character of Shahrazad as a metaphor to explore how creativity and political articulation can coincide as a sharp weapon against oppression. The film features an array of individuals from different backgrounds including a Turkish youth orchestra conductor who uses Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade suite as a tool for political education; a young Lebanese actress who reconciles her past by becoming an internet activist in Egypt; an older visual artist who finds his "dream of Shahrazad" in the appearance of a beautiful young storyteller; and an Alexandrian storyteller who meets with the mothers of martyrs of the Revolution and turns their testimonies into new storytelling performances.

The Dream of Shahrazad was largely self-funded and further funding contributions were received 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.

The film is produced by Verster and Shameela Seedat of Undercurrent Film and Television, Wael Omar of Middle west Films and Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media, and coproduced by 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). World sales are being handled by Spier Films, with Michael Auret as executive producer.

Francois Verster is an independent documentary Emmy awarded filmmaker with musical, cinematic and literature various backgrounds. Verster was born in 1969 in Cape Town, South Africa. He earned his MA in literature from the University of Cape Town then he participated in number of independent feature films before his first Avanti awarded documentary Pavement Aristocrats (1998) as a director and producer. After that, he directed and produced number of internationally awarded films such as; the Emmy awarded in 2006 A Lion's Trial (2002), When the War is Over (2002), The Mother's House (2006) and Sea Point Days (2009).