London, United Kingdom (PressExposure) June 25, 2009 -- DRAWING extensively on her South African and Indian heritage, Shamim Sarif's debut novel The World Unseen was published to critical acclaim, going on to win the Pendleton May First Novel Award, the prestigious Betty Trask Award and was selected as The Star Book Of The Week in South Africa. Choosing to shoot it entirely in South Africa where the stories based on her family originated, Sarif brought the motion picture adaptation of her novel to the big screen by not only directing the film but adapting the screenplay as well. The World Unseen movie has now been awarded the Audience Best Picture Award from the Paris Feminist & Lesbian film festival.
Scheduled for general release in the US and Canada on November 7 and in South Africa on 13th February 2009, the World Unseen is a human drama inspired by true stories of Sarif's grandmother's life in South Africa during the 1950s when apartheid began its treacherous grip on the country, leaving individuals to deal with a long battle for independence and identity.
In The World Unseen, free-spirited Amina has broken all the rules of her own conventional Indian community and the new apartheid-led government by running a cafÃ© with Jacob, her "coloured" business partner. When she meets Miriam, a young traditional wife and mother, their unexpected attraction pushes Miriam to question the rules that bind her.
"The events of the story are set in a very specific time and place - South Africa, in the 1950s, within the subtle hierarchies of the Indian community - but the tribulations and triumphs of its characters are universal," explains Sarif. "All of us have fallen in love; we have all experienced injustice of a sort, whether within political systems or within our own families; we have all understood integrity and aspired to it."
Produced by Hanan Kattan, Sarif's partner in Enlightenment Productions, The World Unseen is a passionate and provocative story that embodies the production company's ethos of developing stories that challenge convention. This philosophy ties strongly with the recurring and universal themes in Sarif's work about the empowerment of women and how they find their individual voices in society.
Funded almost entirely by private equity, with assistance from the National Film & Video Foundation in South Africa (minority investor), The World Unseen was shot entirely on location in South Africa and features an international cast.
Enlightenment Productions' goal is to harness the power of film to tell stories that push boundaries, challenge perceptions and cause the audience to consider even as they are being entertained. The underlying belief is that great films begin with great scripts, and the collaborations between Kattan and Sarif provide a fertile source.
Hanan's debut film as a producer and Sarif's as director was I Can't Think Straight which will be released in the US and Canada on November 21, 2008. It is also based on a novel by Sarif which she adapted for the screen herself. In addition to this remarkable feat, both films were made with the same leading cast and the same powerful all-female production team.
I Can't Think Straight is a touching, romantic comedy which follows the unlikely love affair between two women from vastly different cultures - the daughter of wealthy Christian Palestinians from the upper echelons of Jordanian society, and a young British Indian woman.
Both books will be re-released simultaneously with the film in North America, with new covers which will correspond with the film posters.
Sarif's talent and passion is for creating worlds where everyday people show themselves to be exceptional - whether in the face of family ties, community traditions or the wider grip of a political regime, her characters are often charismatic and often heroic. She is also the author of several published short stories, and has script-edited a children's TV series.
Other joint directing/producing projects based on Sarif's writing include Despite The Falling Snow, a tale of passion and betrayal in Cold War Russia, and The Dreaming Spires - a period drama about a young American boy at Oxford and the relationship he forms with a blind Englishwoman, based on Sarif's short story The Reader.
Sarif lives in London with her partner Kattan and their two children.