The World Unseen
|The World Unseen|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Shamim Sarif|
|Produced by||Hanan Kattan|
|Written by||Shamim Sarif|
|Music by||Richard Blackford|
|Editing by||David Martin|
|Distributed by||Enlightenment Productions
|Running time||94 minutes|
The World Unseen is a 2007 historical drama film written and directed by Shamim Sarif, adapted from her own novel. The film is set in 1950s Cape Town, South Africa during the beginning of apartheid. The film stars Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth as two Indian South African women who fall in love in a racist, sexist, and homophobic society.
Ray and Sheth also star together in another Shamim Sarif movie, I Can't Think Straight, released in November 2007.
The World Unseen was made with the assistance of the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, which took a minority equity stake in the film.
In 1950s South Africa, a land torn apart by apartheid, Amina epitomizes individuality and freedom. She runs the Location Café, a haven of fun, food, and festivities open to all. Amina defines her own laws and lives on her own terms undeterred by the reproving police and the disparaging Indian community.
Miriam demurely follows conventions and makes no demands on life. Her world is confined to being a doting mother to her three children and a subservient wife to her chauvinistic husband Omar.
Amina has a covert business partner, Jacob, who is barred from owning a business because he is ‘coloured.' He fancies Madeleine, a local white postmistress, but the indignities and injustices of the prevalent law thwart their desire to pursue a relationship.
Omar’s sister Rehmat married a white man against rules that forbid mixed marriages. When she needs protection from police, Amina shelters her, and her charm and strength of character captivate Miriam, who secretly rejoices when Amina accepts a farming job in her backyard. Amina notices Miriam’s inherent kindness and silent dedication, and the mutual attraction between them grows. They bare their hearts to each other and their emotions get entangled. They contrive another reason to meet: driving lessons.
The inescapable social distance between them makes them question their feelings, but in the midst of hatred and oppression their only refuge is love.
In the resplendent South African landscape with retro music strewn in the background, The World Unseen explores Miriam’s relationship with Amina and how it empowers her to make personal choices that change her world.
- Lisa Ray as Miriam, a wife and mother who has recently immigrated to South Africa.
- Sheetal Sheth as Amina, a free spirited café owner.
- Parvin Dabas as Omar, Miriam's chauvinistic and frustrated husband and one of the film's primary antagonists.
- David Dennis as Jacob, Amina's business partner, who is Coloured.
- Grethe Fox as Madeleine Smith, Jacob's White love interest who runs the local post office.
- Colin Moss as De Witt, a policeman and one of the film's primary antagonists.
- Nandana Sen as Rehmat
- Natalie Becker as Farah, Omar's lover
- Rajesh Gopie as Sadru
- Bernard White as Mr. Harjan
- Avantika Akerkar as Mrs. Harjan
- Amber Rose Revah as Begum
- Leonie Casanova as Doris, a waitress at Amina's café shop
The film was very positively reviewed by the gay and lesbian media, with AfterEllen.com calling it "one of the best-conceived queer films of the past year – a sincere, beautifully realized vision of love and resistance in an intolerant world."  The movie also enjoyed a warm reception in South Africa, winning 11 awards at the SAFTAs including Best Director and Best Writing Team. However, the film was almost universally panned by critics at large, receiving a 25% "rotten" score and an average rating of 4.6 on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Awards and honours
|South African Film and Television Awards||Best Director||Shamim Sarif||Won|
|Best Cinematographer||Mike Downie||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||David Dennis||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Natalie Becker||Won|
|Best Ensemble Cast||The World Unseen||Won|
|Best Writing||Shamim Sarif||Won|
|Best Editor||Ronelle Loots, David Martin||Won|
|Best Production Designer||Tanya van Tonder||Won|
|Best Costume Designer||Danielle Knox||Won|
|Best Make Up/Hair Stylist||Caera O'Shaughneey||Won|
|Best Sound Designer||Barry Donnelly||Won|
|Phoenix International Film Festival||World Cinema Best Director||Shamim Sarif||Won|
|Clip Film Festival, USA||Best Director, Feature||Shamim Sarif||Won|
|Grand Canarias G&L International Film Festival||Best Actress||Sheetal Sheth||Won|
|Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival||Audience Award, Best Feature||The World Unseen||Won|
|Verzaubert Film Festival||Silver Medal||The World Unseen||Won|
|Paris Feminist & Lesbian Film Festival||Audience Award, Best Feature||The World Unseen||Won|
|Rehoboth Film Festival||Best Debut Feature||The World Unseen||Won|
- "Review of "The World Unseen"". AfterEllen.com. 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- "Nominees List 2009". nfvf.co.za. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "3rd Annual SAFTA Awards, TVSA". tvsa.co.za. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "The World Unseen - Awards". enlightenment-productions.com. Retrieved 2010-02-05.