The World Unseen

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The World Unseen
The World Unseen Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Shamim Sarif
Produced by Hanan Kattan
Written by Shamim Sarif
Starring Lisa Ray
Sheetal Sheth
Music by Richard Blackford
Cinematography Michael Downie
Edited by David Martin
Distributed by Enlightenment Productions
Regent Releasing
Release date
  • 9 September 2007 (2007-09-09) (Toronto International Film Festival)
Running time
94 minutes
Country South Africa
United Kingdom
Language English

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 the State considers him to be 'coloured'. He is attracted to 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.




The film was very positively reviewed by the gay and lesbian media, with 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."[1]Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator, gave the film a 24% rotten rating, with an average score of 4.5, from 25 reviews, with no consensus.[2]

Awards and honours[edit]

Award Category Name Outcome
South African Film and Television Awards 2009[3][4] 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[5] World Cinema Best Director Shamim Sarif Won
Clip Film Festival, USA[5] Best Director, Feature Shamim Sarif Won
Grand Canarias G&L International Film Festival[5] Best Actress Sheetal Sheth Won
Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival[5] Audience Award, Best Feature The World Unseen Won
Verzaubert Film Festival[5] Silver Medal The World Unseen Won
Paris Feminist & Lesbian Film Festival[5] Audience Award, Best Feature The World Unseen Won
Rehoboth Film Festival[5] Best Debut Feature The World Unseen Won



  1. ^ "Review of "The World Unseen" - AfterEllen". AfterEllen. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  2. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  3. ^ "Nominees List 2009". Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  4. ^ "3rd Annual SAFTA Awards, TVSA". Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "The World Unseen - Awards". Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  6. ^ 6TH PRODUCERS LAB TORONTO JUST KICKED OFF[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]