Entertainment » Movies

The World Unseen

by Jack Gardner
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Nov 17, 2008
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in "The World Unseen."
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in "The World Unseen."  (Source:Regent Releasing)

Writer-director Shamim Sarif's period drama The World Unseen is a gentle and delicate film that deals smartly with oppression on three fronts: oppression of women, of blacks and of homosexuals, all set against the backdrop of Apartheid-plagued South Africa in the 1950's. The story centers around Amina (Sheetal Sheth), a young lesbian of Indian and African blood, and in that is an era when mixed race relationships were illegal, segregation of all races was rampant and women, particularly Indian women, were second class citizens as well.

The gentle love story between Amina and Miriam (Lisa Ray), a married mother of three, is the central thread of the story. The world they live in and the relationships that surround them set the tone of the movie and the film reminds the viewer that oppression can exist on many levels. The performances are very solid, with Sheth giving a moving performance as a young woman of mixed race who refuses to fit in to any societal dictates. Ray as Miriam, the woman who followed the traditions of her culture and barely knew her husband before she married him, is radiantly beautiful and gives a very delicate and believable performance. Parvin Dabas as Miriam's husband Omar gives a credible performance as the unfaithful husband whose world is rapidly changing.

Sarif has created a haunting film that is expertly handled from beginning to end. The cinematography by Michael Downie is lush and beautiful and contrasts the harshness of the characters daily lives with the beauty of South Africa. The film is majestic and grand and a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.

"The World Unseen" feels particularly relevant at the moment. As gays and lesbians in America struggle for equality in marriage and rights, we tend to forget that we have come a long way from what was. The GLBT movement is, in very many ways, tied to the women's rights movement and the grand push toward racial equality, all three inextricably linked together. Sometimes, in the midst of our own struggle in the United States, we forget that in some places in the world, women are still second class citizens and those who are of mixed races are considered as much of an abomination as homosexuals; while the film takes place a half century ago, it is still a reflection of our recent past. We can look at this film and look at South Africa and the world today and be proud of how far we have come, yet still realize that there is a long way to go before we have true equality on all fronts.

Jack Gardner has been producing theater in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years. He has performed in operas, musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice-over and radio work. Jack lives in South Florida with his three dogs.


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