User Reviews (15)

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  • rwalton9996 December 2010
    Cinematographically perfect,location likewise,casting could not have been better,the pace of the tale was brilliant. I loved this film,it was film-art. I loved it and was pleased that the ending wasn't 'Hollywood or Bollywood'. I couldn't have agreed more with the previous reviewer. More tastefully executed films like this please ! It is a must see and worthy of 10 gold stars by any standard. I have never seen a film that has touched on the lives and times of immigrant East Indians in South Africa,before and I found it to be an eye-opener and quite profound. I suspect that there must be a multitude of similar tales in need of being told from all British Colonies of the time.I'm not about to make excuses nor sympathies as I think it ridiculous to apolgise for the behaviours of past peoples. I endeavour personally to never repeat such practises myself! Nor should you.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Loved the film?

    Come discuss this film!

    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.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    'The World Unseen' is a beautiful film. The issues it deals with can be seen to be controversial through a modern audiences eyes. Racial and gay issues seem to be handled with a strict fist these days, but 'TWU' tip-toes elegantly around these contentious matters making the segregation between races and the circumstance of being gay come across as simply outrageous and unacceptable by todays standards. People should not and should never have had to live in fear. 'TWU' contains great cinematography and the acting (notably from the two beautiful lead roles Sheetal Sheth and Lisa Ray) is second to none. They obviously received heart felt direction from Shamim Sarif and this heart felt dedication shines through, throughout the movie. The ending seems rather unresolved but we all have imaginations and thats half the fun. We can decide for ourselves what happens to the characters Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth portray (among others) in this magnificent thought provoking drama. 'TWU' makes us feel thankful that the world it depicts is a thing of the past, and long let it stay that way.
  • I had the good fortune of seeing this magnificent film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Once a year, sometimes twice I see a film that makes my three movie a week habit all worthwhile, something that is so honest and pure that it's like watching a little piece of Heaven come to life on the screen in front of you. The World Unseen was that for me. I don't want to give anything away. I'll simply say that Writer/Director Shamim Sarif works from her heart and her soul delivering a movie that obviously meant the world to her. Lisa Ray, so wonderful in Water, had me in the palm of her hand, pencil her in as an actress to watch in the future. And Sheetal Sheth was a revelation.

    Set in the Indian community of Cape Town during Apartheid, The World Unseen looks through the politics, around the issues and shows us the world that is the lives and loves of two young woman, one very traditional, one anything but.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I also saw this at the Toronto Inter. Film Festival. I came to see Lisa Ray, who was actually at the screening along with the director. What made the movie for me was Sheetal Sheth. Yes, she had a more flamboyant part than Lisa, so she had more to work with, but she blew me away. Where has she been hiding? Unbelievably gorgeous.

    As for the movie itself, it reinforces the theme found in Fire--don't beat up your wife or she'll turn Lesbian on you. If Indians really beat up their wives like this, they deserve to have them turn Lesbian.

    The police were just over the top--it made those sections almost comical, not menacing. More subtlety would have gone a long way.

    The restaurant looked way too much like a set, and it would have been a lot more effective if all the blacks/coloreds/Indians that were supposed to be beaten down actually looked beaten down once in a while. They looked way too happy most of the time.

    But these were minor quibbles. Lisa and Sheetal alone make this a good movie, whether you are Lesbian or straight.
  • I just saw this film at the London Film Festival. It sold out in two days and they are putting an extra screening!

    This film tell the touching journey of one woman trying to find the courage to be herself in an oppressive (but not overly so) marriage with a bit of help from another, wildly independent and free-spirited woman. The background is 1950s South Africa and its despicable apartheid policy. Throughout the film are stark reminders of what that meant for blacks, whites and the Indian community.

    No clichés here, just wonderful brush-strokes forming a charming and riveting film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I too, saw "The World Unseen" at the Toronto International Film Festival. What a lovely film, and a wonderful story which unfolds in a loving and natural way. A superb cast helmed by a talented director. I was also especially struck by the song during the end credits. This was an absolutely magnificent song sung with such clarity and feeling that it seemed to captivate everyone in the theatre. (No one left the theatre during the end credits - people sat back down to hear the entire song, and that was the first time I saw this happen in my 45 years of movie-going). I have a feeling that we'll be hearing more from this singer/songwriter, Leonie Casanova.
  • Before I Can't Think Straight, there was this film. Both were written and directed by Shamim Sarif, and starred Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth - a combination that assures excellence.

    In a background of oppression in South Africa in 1952, we view a struggle for personal freedom.

    Amina (Sheth) wants to be free to live her life as a lesbian without bigotry. Miriam (Ray) wants to be free of a demanding and philandering husband. Jacon (David Dennis), a half-black wants to love a white woman (Grethe Fox).

    We can only assume that it works out for two of the three characters, and that will have to satisfy us.
  • I juts love this two together. Great movie, nice storyline.
  • The World Unseen is an outstanding movie about the topic of apartheid in the last 20 years of 1900 placed in south Africa. The interpretation of the actors and actresses is perfect, In particular Lisa Ray is perfect in playing the role of ingenuous wife submitted to the husband's rules. Even Sheetal Sheth in her character is very heart-warming. The story is exciting and rich of twists and involves the spectator make him aware of the pain of character. I suggest to the movie to everyone interested in this kind of plots especially to whom is interesting in lgbt movies. There is also the book of this movie that is amazing as well.
  • s-p-aulisa21 July 2014
    If someone has already watched a Shamim Sarif's movie, he could see many differences. They are the result of director's evolution in movie techniques. The color of scene is so vibrant, the dialogue is deeper and the end is something that you can't imagine. What is still the same is her passion for the historical background: South Africa at the beginning of Apartheid era. From the story you can do many reflections: first of all about the racism not only between black and white, but also between mulatto and black. There is another important theme: the homosexuality, a relevant issue in the contemporary society, which it is still considered a taboo. This film is very nice, it is better to watch alone. tin this movie the actress are also more mature in they way they act than in the previous one.
  • elisa-matteoni21 July 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    The film is settled in 1950s South Africa while black people are persecuted by the white ones. Amina is a free and independent woman who runs a café' together with a coloured friend who is barred from owning any kind of business because of the colour of his skin. For this reason the girl is always on the front line helping persecuted people, and hiding them from the police. Instead Miriam is a wife with two children and an husband, Omar, whose sister married a white guy against the law that forbid mixed marriage. This is an absorbing history that handles different social pathologies. At the same time it talks about an unexpected love story that relieves from the pressure of the apartheid, theme that is the common thread of all the stories told.
  • i saw this film at the London Film Festival ... drawn to it by the subject matter ...

    but what a disappointment - the acting was at times cringe worthy ... the script was at times so obvious and telegraphed, you knew at the start of a scene where it was going ...

    and there seemed to be an over-reliance on the period props - just having a nice car, is not enough to carry a scene ! the writer/director was there to take the plaudits - she said that with the film being such a small, low-budget production, she had been able to chose the music, and the main casting.

    unless you have a strong interest in the subject matter, this is definitely one to avoid.
  • For anyone looking for an innovative or breakthrough film here, look elsewhere. This is a formula film with a capital F and you can predict its progress in the first 3 minutes or so. Sometimes that is OK if the ride is exceptional. This time it is so-so.

    The upside: Good if standard cinematography/camera work and editing, believable sets. The subplot with the white bank employee and the mixed race cafe owner is more interesting and suspenseful than the main plot.

    The downside: This comes from just how much this film relies on cookie-counter elements. No white or Indian male (save one who appears briefly) or conventionally minded woman is allowed to have a redeemable feature. They are quickly established as people that you will not have sympathy for. Likewise the setting in institutionally suppressive South Africa 1952 is just sooo perfect to inject a touch of brutality and righteous indignation and a hint of a political edge to a very tired story line.

    This sets the stage for the predatory/touristy lesbian tomboy to enlighten the frustrated housewife. Yawn....

    Then we get the blues-jazz piano intro, some poetry, endless, furtive longing glances, the questioning of values and life goals, the symbolic-suggestive one liners, the moments of crisis, the resolution and the folk song over the ending credits. All formula. Been there, done that.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This simply could not be any worthier: the chief keywords here being South Africa; apartheid; multiculturalism. And lesbians. A richly textured 12-part epic might be constructed around that tidy grouping, but author Shamim Sarif gave us a single award-winning novel instead, based on her grandmother's recollections of 1950s Cape Town. Less agreeably, and most unusually for a writer, she has also been given free hand to script and direct her own movie adaptation. Really bad move.

    Fiercely independent Amina (played by the Indian-American Sheetal Sheth) literally wears the trousers as owner of a Cape Town café in 1952. She's always getting into trouble with the police for serving "blecks". She's also something of a pariah within her own prejudiced immigrant community for speaking out against the subjugation of women. One day her counterpart turns up. Miriam (Indian-Canadian Lisa Ray) is a subservient housewife, mother and shopkeeper, married to racist, chauvinist pig Omar (Parvin Dabas), who in turn is having an affair with his sister-in-law Farah (Natalie Becker) under poor Miriam's nose. Amira is smitten. The lady's ripe for turning. But will she ever persuade Miriam to shrug off her shackles and find true love?

    Never mind the world, this will probably end up a film unseen for the most part, but that doesn't automatically make it some kind of ghettoised gem. Like Sarif's other lesbian drama I Can't Think Straight (also featuring Sheth and Ray) this is queer cinema by default only, too mimsy and soapy a concoction to be regarded as anything other than a daytime TV movie.

    If the direction is flatter than a chapatti, the performances are mostly amateur hour, with cringeworthy dialogue clamouring to be heard above an hysterical din of a score; tremulous strings and fussily tinkling pianos drowning each and every soft focus scene in caramelised gloop. It's certainly a huge letdown after opening the film with Nina Simone's gorgeous rendition of 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free' - all-purpose protest song and knowing shout-out to the singer's significant gay fan base.

    The leading ladies frantically bat their lashes at one another, but with so little chemistry between them they'd produce more sparks trying to light a cigarette with a dodgy disposable. Miriam's sexual awakening during a driving lesson is also unconvincing. "You didn't come to give me a driving lesson, did you?" Miriam hotly accuses Amina. "So why did you come?" This exchange, after they've already snogged.

    Most damagingly, for a film set during an era when flouting racial and gender conventions could land you on Robben Island for years, there is absolutely zero sense of danger. It's as if Sarif is so confident audiences are already up to speed with the politics (or with her novel), that she hasn't bothered with the important stuff: atmospherics, a feel for the time and place.

    The real drama, it seems, is going on elsewhere: a subplot involving the café's mixed-race, middle-aged co-owner Jacob (David Dennis) secretly romancing Madeleine (Grethe Fox), a white postmistress. But largely, what we're left with is a pair of total babes brushing lips. The only threat for this glamorous pair would appear to be smudged cosmetics.