The Dream of Shahrazad

Even revolutions begin with a story...
Francois Verster
Cape Town
South Africa
9 Team Members

The Dream of Shahrazad is sponsored by IDFA


Our Story

THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD is a feature-length documentary film that has been in development since 2006 and is due for completion in October 2012.  After filming over 200 hours of material in Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, we are currently in the early stages of final editing.  We are hugely thrilled about completing an innovative and exciting project, but urgently need further funds to get there!

Director/producer Francois VersterI am an independent documentary filmmaker based in Cape Town, South Africa.  My previous work includes the Emmy-winning A LION'S TRAIL as well as other award-winning festival and broadcast hits PAVEMENT ARISTOCRATS,  WHEN THE WAR IS OVER, THE MOTHERS' HOUSE and SEA POINT DAYS.  Our team also comprises South African producers Neil Brandt and Shameela Seedat, Egyptian co-producer Wael Omar, as well as partners in Turkey, France and Holland.

This film has been a huge personal voyage of discovery for me, and has changed much since its inception. After September 2001, I started wondering much about how the world perceived the so-called "Middle East" or "Arab world", and tried to look into how my own views had been shaped through the years.  What immediately came to mind was childhood memories of the famous story collection THE 1001 (or "ARABIAN") NIGHTS: magical, fantastic tales such as those of Aladdin and his Lamp, Sindbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Fourty Thieves, and so on.  I had also since childhood been an admirer of the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov's SCHEHERAZADE, his symphonic suite based on stories from THE NIGHTS.  It seemed to me that there were uncomfortable links between the sense of exoticism found in these artworks on the one hand and the more directly anti-Muslim or anti-Arab views that seemed increasingly current on the other.  My previous film A LION'S TRAIL had explored Africa's position in the world through the history of one song, and I decided that basing a documentary film on Rimsky-Korsakov's suite - which I then considered a "guilty pleasure" - could be a great tool to do something similar here.  Building a documentary film around an existing piece of symphonic music also presented an exciting creative challenge.

We started raising funds and doing research in 2006 - and as soon as I started meeting creative people on the ground I realized that the issues which so concerned me were far less important to them.  Turkish conductor Cem Mansur completely disabused me of the idea that the SCHEHERAZADE suite is an "Orientalist" piece.  In Egypt I became aware of a vast tradition of oral storytelling that draws inspiration from Shahrazad, the princess who saves lives by telling the stories in THE NIGHTS.  The real topic here, I realized, was the legacy of Shahrazad in the region itself: how artists were putting existing creative traditions - especially around storytelling - to new political use.  We started filming in 2010 and covered most of what we needed in Turkey, as well as performance material in Egypt, which strongly called for political change.  Our film subjects were hugely inspiring, and especially in Egypt I formed deep bonds with people doing amazing work under very difficult circumstances.  And then, in early 2011, the "Arab Spring" happened... events which directly slotted into the trajectory of the film and which cllinched the links we were trying to make.

THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD celebrates the legacy of Shahrazad and the NIGHTS in the context of current events, and looks at how storytelling and other art forms interact with political change.  Viewers get to follow a web of unforgettable characters who draw their inspiration from the NIGHTS. A young female Turkish violinist travels to Istanbul, where the charismatic Cem Mansur uses Rimsky-Korsakov's SCHEHERAZADE suite as a tool for political education, leading up to a final performance at Istanbul's Topkapi Palace. A compassionate but troubled young Lebanese woman makes peace with her past by learning the art of storytelling in Egypt. An older visual artist is obsessed with THE NIGHTS and finds his "dream of Shahrazad" manifesting through the appearance of a beautiful young storyteller. Members of a Cairo theatre troupe meet with the mothers of martyrs of Egypt's January 25 Revolution and turn their testimonies into new storytelling performances...

The film shows not only how social problems are articulated through storytelling, but also how creative expression can be a way forward.

More information can be found at:

Ghida Hammoud and Francois Verster

With storyteller/actress Ghida Hammoud, Beirut 2011

Francois Verster filming storytelling master Hassan el Geretly, Tahrir Square, Cairo 2011

Filming theatre maestro Hassan el Geretly at Tahrir Square, Cairo 2011

The Impact

My previous films have had a very wide reach in terms of international festival and television distribution, and with this film I hope that the bar can be further raised.  Distribution plans for the film include not only cinema screenings, festivals, internet, television broadcast and educational and commercial DVD sales but also tailor-made campaigns around democracy, the rights of the poor, of women, and of minorities, the use of storytelling and music in activism and more.

The meaning and consequences of the "Arab Spring" – and also of current changes happening in Turkey - are very far from clear... This film hopes to go beyond obvious political analysis by offering a way in - through music, fantasy, and emotion - that is different from that of many films made on the subject to date.

We are keen to complete the final stages of this film as soon as possible, and this is why we need your support!

What We Need & What You Get

The production funds we do have so far have come from various grant funders, from our distributor Spier Films, and from large cash and in kind contributions by our team.

At this stage we however still need funds to do one final shoot in Egypt, final translations from Arabic and Turkish, proper editing of the film, archive research, final translations, clearance of archival and music rights, and final online, grade and sound mix processes.

With this campaign we are hoping to raise the larger part of funding needed for all of this... Any contribution will help, and whatever funds we receive will bring us closer to completion.  If in the final event our fundraising goal is not reached, we will as last resort look at further loans towards completion (which of course we would much like to avoid!).

So… if you believe in our project, if you want to be involved in a creatively ground-breaking insight into major current political issues, or if you are simply willing and able to help, we would be immensely grateful for your contribution.  In return, we would also like to offer you perks as listed.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you can help us in any other form it would also be much appreciated.  Some of the things we can think of…

  • notifying us of public or private funders who may be interested in the film
  • your suggestions for outreach partners once the film is completed
  • liking the film on our facebook page (this allows us to keep you updated on developments and also in various ways with marketing further down the line)
  • spreading the word... notifying friends, family and colleagues about this indiegogo campaign (for example, using the share tools on this site!)
  • following us on twitter and retweeting whatever you find interesting
  • your feedback on the idea of the film overall.
Find This Campaign On
raised by 73 people in 3 months
10% funded
No time left
$60,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on June 12, 2012
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Select a Perk
  • $5USD

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film and thereby also help us to get numbers up!

    4 claimed
  • $10USD

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film (unless of course you want to stay anonymous!), and will receive a free HD download of the film once the film has been commercially released on DVD.

    13 claimed
    Estimated delivery: March 2013
  • $35USD
    Opening donor

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film and receive a basic DVD version of the film shipped to an address anywhere in the world once the film is completed.

    14 claimed
  • $50USD
    Basic donor 1

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film and receive a free designed DVD box edition of the film (with extra DVD materials and booklet) shipped to an address anywhere in the world once the film is completed.

    15 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $65USD
    Basic donor 2

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film and receive a free designed Blu-Ray box edition of the film (with extra materials and booklet) shipped anywhere in the world once the film is completed.

    9 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $120USD
    Intermediate donor

    You will be listed on the film website as an official donor to the film and will receive two fully authored DVD box set OR two Blu-Ray box sets, as well as a poster of the film, all signed by the director, shipped anywhere in the world once it is completed.

    8 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $250USD
    Film collector

    You will receive all the above perks, as well as a box set with 3 of the director's previous award-winning films, all signed by the director.

    5 claimed
  • $450USD
    Film fellow

    You will receive all the above perks, plus a thank you credit in the film itself, and 2 VIP tickets to a premiere screening of your choice planned in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Cairo and Istanbul (excluding travel and accommodation).

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $600USD
    Film associate

    You will receive all the above perks plus 5 instead of 2 DVD or Blu-Ray edition box sets as well as the opportunity for a personal Skype call with director Francois Verster.

    1 claimed
  • $2,000USD
    Gold associate

    You will receive all the above perks plus a supper invitation for two with director and crew at one of the launch screenings planned and a special thanks credit in the film.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $4,000USD
    Associate producer

    You will receive all the above perks as well as an associate producer credit in the end credits of the film.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
  • $5,000USD
    Platinum screening associate

    You will receive all the perks as above, but instead of receiving an associate producer credit will receive the opportunity of a private or corporate screening anywhere in the world with director Francois Verster present, (travel and accommodation costs to be covered above this, unless the screening is in South Africa).

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2012
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