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The Dream of Shahrazad Selected for World Premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

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Musical Storytelling in the Face of Dictatorship during the Arab Spring

The Dream of Shahrazad Selected for World Premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam


Francois Verster's documentary, The Dream of Shahrazad, will be hosting its World Premiere within the Masters programme of the 27th International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA). This section assembles works by the cream of the crop of the world's documentary film auteurs, Francois Verster's The Dream of Shahrazad receives its world premiere at the 27th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film explores aspects of artistic creativity in Egypt and Turkey amid the cyclones of change before, during and after the Arab Spring in the face of social and political oppression.

The film will have its World Premiere on Sunday, November 23rd at IDFA with the attendance of Co-producer Wael Omar, following which The Dream of Shahrazad will have 5 daily screenings until Saturday, November 29th, 2014.

Commenting on the film, Verster said, "This has been the film that has taken the most time and has been most difficult to complete - the challenge was not only to film in three foreign countries where I did not at first speak any of the language, but also to construct a film around a specific piece of music, where documentary reality had to be fitted to a predetermined form. The film started with very little means, but we made amazing contacts as we went along and the film grew organically into its final form. We kept returning to Egypt over the year following the January 2011 revolution, and being able to explore all the immense changes happening through friends and subjects there was one of the most fascinating and enriching experience of my life."

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.

Development on the film started in 2006 and filming took place over the course of two years- between 2010 and 2012 - before, during and after the Arab Spring.

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.

Produced by Verster in collaboration with Wael Omar of Middlewest Films; Shameela Seedat of Undercurrent Film and Television; Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media, the films was also co-produced by Fleur Knopperts and Denis Vaslin of Volya Films (Netherlands); Lucas Rosant of Melia Films (France); Serene Huleileh and Reem Abu Kishek of the Hakaya Regional Network (Jordan).

Francois Verster is an Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker with an extensively know-how background in the fields of literature, music and cinema. Born in 1969 in South Africa, Verster holds a Master's Degree in Literature from the University of Cape Town. He then took part in a number of independent feature-length film productions before making his documentary debut, both as a director and a producer, Pavement Aristocrats (1998), which received an Avanti Award. Verster's extensive repertoire further includes A Lion's Trail (2002); which received the Emmy Award in 2006, When The War is Over (2002), The Mothers' House (2006) and Sea Point Days (2009).