DIFF REVIEW: Once upon a time... I hoped to change my country

2015-07-21 13:24

Film: The Dream of Shahrazad 
Director: Francois Verster
A woman capable of holding a man’s attention through storytelling for 1 001 night is a woman worth praising and so is the story of Shahrazad; where such famous stories of Aladdin and Sinbad began. 

The Dream of Shahrazad, a documentary in competition at the Durban International Film Festival, hopes to hold its audience with the same power that Shahrazad held a murderous King's attention. South African film maker Francois Verster uses this fable as not only a metaphor but a tool to weave a story that depicts recent political events in Egypt and Turkey. Following three separate narratives, he allows us to delve into the world of the politically oppressed and the beautiful, exquisite ways that storytelling can become an outlet and a tool for those without a voice to find strength, unity and beauty in moments where there otherwise might not be. 

Verster says that his film was inspired by the event of 9/11 and how he saw Islamaphobia spreading; how this once vibrant religion became universally despised.

Though the characters – an orchestra conductor desperately trying to inspire the young minds in his youth orchestra; the mothers of Egypt mourning martyred sons; an actress andinternet sensation – seemingly have little in common, the manner in which Shahrazad has inspired them and the struggles in each of their countries are prevalent themes. Verster successfully captures their struggle to make sense of the world that they live in. 

Music, storytelling, art and politics find an interesting balance, and in the same way that Shahrazad managed to keep an emotionally damaged, narcissistic dictator interested night after night (when most of us would have called in the shrink to see him), the plight of the characters and their resilience is seen as a parallel of Shahrazad's story. The documentary, takes on a heavy subject but manages to draw you in slowly as a fable would.

Verster’s fast-paced editing marries well with his quiet and careful directing; finding a balance where the story successfully comes alive. The Dream of Shahrazad hopes to inspire its audiences with the amazing world of storytelling.
* You can watch the film on July 22 at 5pm at the Suncoast Cinecentre and on July 25 at 1pm at the Musgrave Cinema
Talents Press is a programme of Talents Durban at the Durban International Film Festival which sees 40  film makers from Africa and the diaspora gather for 5 days of workshops, seminars and masterclasses

Every year City Press publishes the best reviews from Talents Press, which is part of the training programme Talents Durban at the Durban International Film Festival (Diff) , attended by 40  film makers from Africa and the diaspora. At Talents Press young film critics get to sharpen their reviewing skills.

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