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See you there! Sariena (Digital Babe)
First, let me say that I first became familiar with Shamim Sarif's work, while visiting the Philadelphia Gay Film Festival over the last few years. This will be long, as I ABSOLUTELY LOVE both films, and can't recommend them enough for some humor, realistic drama and a journey beyond any existing borders of the mind.
My partner of 10 years and I have become life-long fans of Shamim's work, as this writer/director has captured our hearts and souls with relevant and poignant story lines that could serve as crossover projects for the mainstream media. I believe the latter is crucial in engaging America and the world in a dialogue of equality which transcends sexuality or gender.
I CAN'T THINK STRAIGHT- ===================== This has taken its spot among my favorite romantic comedies of all time. The soundtrack was up-tempo, fun and playful. The colors, costumes and set design where expertly integrated, and both this, and THE WORLD UNSEEN should be re-released on Blu-Ray. The look of both films is amazing and begs for hi-definition treatment.
This time Shamim Sarif uses humor effectively to shed light on the cultural taboo of being in a same sex relationship. She re-casts Lisa Ray as the confident, bold and seductive Tala, working on her own business, opposite Sheetal Sheth as Leila, the shy, beautiful and insightful writer, and object of Tala's affections.
Together they explore this very forbidden, but inevitable love, and find their way to each other, with each other's help. But on the way, they are aided by friends in very humorous situations, and hindered by family members, still loyal to reserved tradition. The soundtrack is virtually its own character, as it includes catchy and sexy songs ranging from ethnic to ballad, which compliment Tala and Leila's journey perfectly.
The cultural taboo of being in this relationship is a relatable conundrum that many same sex couples have faced, and despite this film's focus on Jordanian and Indian cultures, the overarching theme of being threatened, disowned and shunned by family is universal and sadly, very relevant. All of the characters are funny and charming, and the dialogue is hilarious and smart, but never preachy. I found it particularly interesting how the fathers in both THE WORLD UNSEEN and I CAN'T THINK STRAIGHT were overall very supportive-another rare depiction, given the theme and cultures depicted. ***SPOILER ALERT***
THE WORLD UNSEEN: ===================== For me, this film is a stunning, visual masterpiece, based on the book of the same name. The sweeping visual landscape, and texture and layers of the setting, costumes, characters and lifestyle are simply magnificent and breathtaking. The film also masterfully captures the inhumanity, humiliation, cruelty and robbing of dignity caused by the laws of the period.
It is a period piece, set in 1950's South Africa and tells the heartfelt and heart-breaking story of two women who find each other under during a chance encounter which awakens an emotional connection that ultimately unites them in heart, mind and soul. This occurs during a time period, where mixed race relationships are considered criminal, and the country has taken for granted that this should be acceptable. That is, except for those that characters that fight to revolt against this, and believe in equality.
This includes Amina, the rebellious, courageous character (Sheetal Sheth) who ultimately reminds Miriam (Lisa Ray)-an oppressed and abused housewife, who has lost herself and her interests, in her "role"- that she the latter has the strength to stand on her own and be who she wants to be-personally and professionally. Both Sheetal Sheth and Lisa Ray do an incredible job of conveying their individual plights on screen-sometimes with little spoken word and an artistic journey that entrenches you into their quiet pain, caused by the situation. Their scenes are some of the most skillful, yearning and heart-wrenching I have ever seen.
The story is told with such subtle and emotional complexity that I've rarely seen on film. Many feelings are conveyed with glances, the score itself, and unsaid words, which make this film incredibly powerful. Although the film leaves much implied, I was completely captivated by the power of the performances of the leads, as well as the supporting cast. I learned a great deal about the time period, as well as how much courage each character had to find within him/herself to ultimately emerge independent and dignified.
Amina is playful, bold, flirty and powerful and Miriam is reserved, curious and taken with Amina and all that she represents. There is passionate chemistry between the two female leads, who ultimately risk everything to grasp that which is most important-love for each other and for life and happiness. The film has an open end, but keen viewers can deduce the outcome and will remember this powerful story forever. This is the winner of numerous awards, including the official selection at the Toronto Film Festival & London Film Festival. Do not miss this film!
Again, Shamim Sarif achieves the kind of crossover appeal, whether intentional or not, that allows the universal themes of unstoppable love to trump the sometimes "hot button" issues of gender, political and sexual orientation components. Both leads and the entire supporting cast envelop us with hope, laughter and inspiration. These two films are truly must- sees and the behind the scenes extras on both DVD's are great additions.
Regardless of your sexual orientation, or interest in the genres, I highly recommend these 2 pieces as examples of genius book to film transitions and films that stand on their own (I've not read the books yet), that deliver a poignant message of hope, equality, inspiration and entertainment.