A film by Francois Verster
2015, 107 minutes
No. 085


An exploration of recent social and political upheavals across the Middle East, The Dream of Shahrazad contextualizes these events within a broader historical and cultural legacy drawing on the famous collection of stories known as “The Arabian Nights.”

Using the metaphor of Shahrazad – the storytelling princess in "The Arabian Nights" who saves lives by telling stories – and filmed before, during and after the so-called “Arab Spring”, it weaves together a web of music, politics and storytelling to explore the ways in which creativity and political articulation coincide in response to oppression. A series of unforgettable characters all draw their inspiration from the NIGHTS and, like Shahrazad, put creativity to new political use…

A charismatic conductor uses Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade suite as a tool for political education, leading up to a final performance at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace. A young Lebanese woman makes peace with her past by learning the art of storytelling in Egypt and becomes an internet activist in the process. An older visual artist who is obsessed with "The Arabian Nights" finds his 'dream of Shahrazad' manifesting through the appearance of a beautiful young storyteller. An Alexandrian storyteller joins forces with a Cairo theatre troupe, meeting with the mothers of martyrs of the January 25 Revolution and turning their testimonies into new storytelling performances…

This richly kaleidoscopic film is at once observational documentary, concert film, political essay and visual translation of an ever-popular symphonic and literary classic. It is a documentary homage to the classic tale, to the Scheherazade suite, and to the role of a rich historical and creative legacy within huge current political change.

Official Selection, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam
Official Selection, Human Rights Watch Film Festival

"Considers the legacy of 'The Arabian Nights' while crafting a challenging, vast yet intimate tapestry of personal and cultural significance." - Screen Space