Friday, February 27, 2009

The World Unseen

Not an easy movie to review as I believe that the movie is more mainstream than lesbian interest. So to be fair I’ll do what I did before and try to review it from a mainstream point-of-view and then from a lesbian interest pov.

The first film by Shamim Sarif to be released –she also wrote the screenplay and the novel- tells about two Indian-born women that find attraction in the 50’s South Africa when awful government-sanctioned racism and sexism apartheid was in full enforcement. Miriam (Lisa Ray) has three children from a stern and unfaithful husband and as a human being is quietly suffocating with her senseless marriage. Amina (Sheetal Sheth) is a free-spirited woman of mixed races blood that runs a café with a “colored” business partner; she is “violating” many apartheid laws as she’s “mixed”, has a black business partner and her café serves white and “colored” people. On top she’s an “open” lesbian that dresses unconventionally for those years as she wears pants instead of dresses and/or the Indian traditional outfits. When the two women meet attraction is set but their fears to “everything” that surrounds their lives makes their “romance” not that possible.

Yes, I believe that the central story is a total lesbian interest romance, but the way that the screenplay was written does not really allow to see the lesbian romance as the center story, as tells so many collateral stories that all are told in a “telegraphed” way that you really have a hard time to see the story as lesbian interest and becomes easier to see it as mainstream, like many mainstream cinema viewers state in their comments.

According to what I read seems like some mainstream viewers and critics enjoyed the movie for the story that tells about apartheid with some “discovering” that it was not only applied to blacks, but to all “colored” people. Most recommend the movie to lesbian and straight audiences, but most also claim that the movie as a movie is not that good due to the lack of skills the writer/director shows when dealing with sensitive issues like the clash between the personal and the political in a land torn by racism and sexism and an end product that looks/feels more like a bland melodramatic made for TV movie.

So, as a mainstream movie I find that the movie lacks continuity due to poor editing, screenplay does not allow good characters development, cinematography is below average, very poor art direction with terrible sets and poor lighting, poor framing (with one or two exceptions that were not only interesting but looked like visual poetry… so Sarif has potential, hmm!) and other tech flaws that honestly make the film not so easy to watch if you enjoy good cinema.

Knowing that the movie had a low budget and thinking that’s the movie belong to the lesbian interest genre I will try to forget about production values and see only the central story. Even when I do see the lesbian interest central story I had a hard time to clearly see it in the screen as there were so many interesting things going on that totally distract my attention from their relationship. The café with interracial and police situations, Miriam disgusting husband and me trying to understand his motives, ditto for Farah; Omar flirting with the post office lady and the appalling car situation, etc. etc. The film has so many other stories that are interesting but mentioning them definitively took time away from the “central” romance between Miriam and Amina and became totally underdeveloped and if we take out all the other stories, I believe that the romance was “telegraphed” in perhaps not more than half hour.

So, as a lesbian interest movie I find it that the “central” story becomes secondary and inconsequential as if the two women were only friends the film would have worked the same, as the real story impact is on the collateral tales.

I imagine that the book has to be different and according to what I read it seems that in the book the lesbian relationship is important to the story. So it becomes a must be read book for me, as this honored novel won a Betty Trask Award and the Pendleton May First Novel Award for Shamim Sarif; but also because Sarif found her inspiration in the tales of her grandmother that lived in South Africa in those years.

Anyway, I believe that for those that enjoy the lesbian interest genre the film will leave them unsatisfied wanting to know more about the characters; while mainstream viewers that are unfamiliar with apartheid would feel the full impact of the apartheid story.

I definitively enjoyed this movie less that the other Sarif movie, it was too messy for my taste and cannot recommend it for lesbian interest audiences as a lesbian interest movie. Perhaps the book is better and if so I will comment it here after I read it. Still because of the apartheid story I find it interesting, but the movie flaws are too many for me and had a hard time watching the movie.


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