Latest News July 2015: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD wins best South African documentary at the Durban International Film Festival

News June 2015: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD nominated for AMA award

News March 2015: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD wins Best Freedom Film at Luxor African Film Festival

News February 2015: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD launched in South Africa

South African documentary filmmaker Francois Verster’s long-awaited new film THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD will have its South African premiere at a private industry and press event at Cinema Nouveau at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town on 19 February.  The evening is hosted by the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Humanities Research.  Panelists include the director, Layla al-Zubaidi (director, Heinrich Boell Stiftung Southern Africa), Neo Muyanga (composer and musician), Hassan el Geretly (director  of El Warsha Theatre Troupe, Cairo and character in the film) and discussion will be led by Professor Premesh Lalu (director, Centre for Humanities Research).

News October 2014: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD selected for IDFA Masters Section

South African documentary filmmaker Francois Verster’s long-awaited new film THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD has been selected for the prestigious Masters programme of the 2014 edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).  The highly regarded documentary festival describes this section as “present[ing] the cream of the crop of new films by renowned documentary auteurs such as Frederick Wiseman, Victor Kossakovsky and Kim Longinotto.”  This year, Verster’s film will be shown alongside new works by Wim Wenders, Albert Maysles, Les Blank, Julien Temple, Nick Broomfield, Joshua Oppenheimer and Frederick Wiseman.  It is the first time that a South African filmmaker has been included in the section.

THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD, described by early viewers as a documentary masterpiece and already hailed in Egypt as one of the best films about the country’s past few years, looks at recent political events in Egypt and Turkey through the lens of the famous story collection known as THE 1001 NIGHTS.  At once observational documentary, concert film and political essay, it uses the metaphor of Shahrazad (the princess who saves lives by telling stories) to explore how creativity and political articulation coincide in response to 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 meets with the mothers of martyrs of the Revolution and turns their testimonies into new storytelling performances.

Development on the film began in 2006 already, and filming took place over two years between 2010 and 2012 – before, during and after the so-called “Arab Spring”.  Says Verster: “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 film ends with General Abdel Fattah el Sisi coming to power after August 2013.

While the film was largely self-funded, further funding contributions came 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 and the European Union.

The film is produced by Verster and Shameela Seedat of Undercurrent Film and Television, Wael Omar of Middlewest 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.  Verster best known previous films include A LION’S TRAIL, WHEN THE WAR IS OVER, THE MOTHERS’ HOUSE and SEA POINT DAYS.

News January 2014: Sundance Documentary Fund and Dutch Film Fund support THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD

THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD has over the past number of months received a production grant from the Sundance Documentary Film Programme as well as completion funding from the Dutch Film Fund.  The edit will now be completed with Dutch editor Menno Boerema and sound design will be done with Ranko Paukovic in Amsterdam. Francois Verster will also be representing the film as part of the Documentary Fellows Programme at the coming Sundance Film Festival in Utah in the US this coming week.  The current completion date aimed for is early May 2014.

News February 2013: Hakaya and Worldview support for THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD

Very good news is that THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD has received coproduction and funding support from the Hakaya Regional Storytelling Network (funded by the European Union) as well as from the CBA Worldview Fund.  Please see:

News 11 Oct 2012: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD accepted at IDFA Forum

Good news is that THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD has been accepted for the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)’s co-production and co-financing Forum! I will be presenting the film with co-producer Neil Brandt and sales agent Heather Millard. Sections of the cut will be shown in the new work-in-progress section on 21 November, after which there will be individual meetings with broadcasters. The IDFA Forum is one of the world’s most important documentary funding events, and we hope to finally get over the last funding hurdles by presenting the project there. See

News 30 June 2012: THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD wins prize at Sunny Side of the Doc

At a closing press conference on Friday (29 June 2012) at the Sunny Side of the Doc market held in La Rochelle, France, it was announced that THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD was awarded the Best Documentary in Progress award.  The film was chosen by a jury of international commissioning editors, distributors and sales agents out of 20 projects in various stages of postproduction which had been selected for the “Docs in Progress” section.  The latter happened for the first time this year as part of the long-standing and prestigious yearly documentary event.

The film, which deals with the legacy of The 1001 (or “Arabian”) Nights in context of recent political events in the Maghreb and Middle East, is being produced by Undercurrent Film & Television and by Fireworx Media, together with French coproducer Mandra Films and Egyptian coproducer Middlewest Films.  It was represented at Sunnyside by director/producer Verster and coproducer Lucas Rosant.

Verster says: “This is a very important and very happily received boost for our film, and it is very affirming that there seems still to be space on international TV platforms for a film such as this which does not fit the normal brackets.”

Both THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD and other South African project I AM A MAN (by Mayenzeke Baza) were supported by South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation, who had a stand at the event.

News 2 June 2012: Filming completed!

We are happy to announce that all filming for THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD has finally been completed.

The main Egyptian strand in the film came together in a very moving performance by the El Warsha theatre troupe in Hawamdeyya outside Cairo on Monday night. Ruqqaya Ayman, whose teenage son Ahmed was killed by police during the uprisings in January last year, and whose testimony became the subject of the new “storytelling theatre” developed by El Warsha – and the main focus of the evening – was there with her family, and the event was extremely powerful.

Editing is now ongoing, and delivery is expected in October this year.

News 5 April 2012: Final shoot phase to happen soon…

Francois Verster will be traveling to Egypt in mid-April to complete final filming on THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD.  He will be filming various final elements in Cairo, as well as a storytelling festival/conference happening in Alexandria, which will feature film characters Hassan el Geretly, Alia Mossallam and Arfa Abd el Rasool.

News 10 March 2012: Indiegogo campaign launched

We are still looking for funds to complete the film, and as part of our strategy have just launched our indiegogo crowdfunding campaign: please see  If you are keen to contribute to the making of the film, please donate generously and spread the word to friends and colleagues