World Unseen, The: Film by Novelist Shamim Sarif

Here Films, the theatrical distribution Here Networks, has acquired all North American distribution rights to “The World Unseen,” a new film by director Shamim Sarif, from sales agency Enlightenment Films.

The film is an official selection of Outfest 2008: The 26th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Fest and will be released theatrically this fall by Regent Releasing, here! Films’ sister company.

Written, directed, financed and produced entirely by women, the picture is an Enlightenment Productions film, in association with DO Productions. Producer Hanan Kattan and co-producer Brigid Olen have teamed up on this project along with associate producer Daisy Allsop. Lisa Tchenguiz-Imerman and Katherine Priestley serve as Executive Producers. “The World Unseen” is the second feature directed by award-winning novelist Shamim Sarif, who also served as the screenwriter on the film, adapting her own book of the same name.

“The World Unseen” is a very special find for us,” said Mark Reinhart, West Coast General Manager and EVP, Distribution and Acquisitions. “This kind of deeply felt drama represents what the here! brand stands for, in supporting stories of, by and for women, and we’re thrilled to be involved in bringing Shamim Sarif’s accomplished film to U.S. audiences this fall.”

Set in 1950s South Africa at the beginning of apartheid, free-spirited Amina (Sheetal Sheth) has broken all the rules of her own conventional Indian community and the new apartheid-led government, by running a caf with Jacob, her black business partner. When she meets Miriam (Lisa Ray), a young wife and mother, their unexpected attraction pushes Miriam to question the rules that bind her to a traditional role. As Amina helps Miriam’s sister-in-law to hide from the police, a chain of events is set in motion that changes both women forever.

Hanan Kattan, the film’s producer, says: “We are thrilled to be working with Regent on building a strong theatrical presence in the U.S. for The World Unseen.’ The film has had such an overwhelmingly positive response from festival audiences and Regent has a passion for the movie that will ensure it is marketed with the care it deserves.”

The early apartheid setting “forms the backdrop for a story of very universal human emotions,” says producer Hanan Kattan. “From overcoming oppression to finding personal freedom, from the hardships of a loveless marriage to the hesitant joy of an unexpected love affair, The World Unseen’ transports the viewer to a vibrant, colourful world that is universal in its themes.”

The international cast is headed up by award-winning Canadian actress Lisa Ray. Her performance in the Academy Award-nominated film “Water” earned her the Best Actress Award from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Other superb cast members include Sheetal Sheth (“Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World”), Parvin Dabas (“Monsoon Wedding”), Bernard White (“The Matrix”) and Nandana Sen (“Black”). The stellar South African cast includes Grethe Fox, David Dennis, Natalie Becker, Rajesh Gopie and Colin Moss.

Mark Reinhart, West Coast General Manager and Executive Vice President of Distribution and Acquisitions for Regent, negotiated the deal with Enlightenment Productions and here! Films’ sister company Regent Releasing, which will handle the film’s theatrical release during the Fall of 2008.

“The World Unseen” has played at film festivals across the globe and has garnered awards, including the Silver Medal at the Verzaubert Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. In addition, director Shamim Sarif received the World Cinema Best Director prize at the Phoenix Film Festival.