The World Unseen

The World Unseen


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

Despite the somewhat indigestible and heavy-handed direction and screenplay by Shamim Sarif, this tale of the burgeoning Sapphic love of two women in 1950s South Africa is held together by two arresting performances from its leading ladies. Indian-American Sheetal Seth plays a doe-eyed, trouser-wearing, anarchic restaurant owner, Amina, while Indian-Canadian Lisa Ray is repressed and oppressed housewife and mother, Miriam. Gradually, Miriam begins to see the possibilities for herself beyond her philandering husband Omar (Parvin Dabas) and the backwater he has taken her to, and with the example set by the feisty Amina, begins to assert herself and her independence, choosing to work with Amina against her husband’s wishes.

The two women play their roles with conviction and they do have a chemistry. They are both remarkably easy on the eye and the camera and they make a striking impression.

Copy picture

There is a sincerity to the story-telling but the story itself is rather flimsy, as is a subplot, involving the romancing of a post mistress Madeleine (Grethe Fox), while the politics are just too clichéd and simplistic. Yes, the world of apartheid in South Africa in the 1950s was an uneasy and unfriendly place and yes, the whites could be intolerable - but not all of them were. The presentation of the subjugated world of the Indian women to their men, many of whom have double standards, is rather more successful but there is no real sense of danger in a world in which any unusual association could be regarded as criminal.

Sarif does capture the mood of the time and offers a skilful dissection of the prejudices women in the Fifties faced, particularly in communities that are themselves subject to intolerance, but the film suffers from over-simplification and pastiche. The camerawork by Michael Downie flatters the actors and captures the essence of the African landscape, but everything appears vaguely muted and the score by Richard Blackford drips with syrup.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2009
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Romantic drama amid the social constraints of Fifties South Africa.

Read more The World Unseen reviews:

Paul Griffiths ***1/2

Director: Shamim Sarif

Writer: Shamim Sarif

Starring: Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth, Parvin Dabas, Nandana Sen, Grethe Fox, David Dennis

Year: 2007

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: UK, South Africa


London 2007

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