Q&A with Francois Verster
Filmmaker Francois Verster explores how music and storytelling can serve as an outlet for citizens to process political upheaval. Using the metaphor of Shahrazad—the princess in the classic tale of The 1001 (Arabian) Nights who saves lives by telling stories to the murderous Sultan Shahriyar—and filmed before, during, and after the so-called Arab Spring, the film weaves together a web of music, politics, and storytelling to explore the ways in which creativity and politics coincide in response to oppression. A series of unforgettable characters all draw their inspiration from The 1001 (Arabian) Nights, including a conductor who uses Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade suite as a tool for Istanbul political education, a young female Lebanese internet activist; a visual artist who finds his own “dream of Shahrazad,” and a Cairo theater troupe who turn the testimonies of mothers of the Egyptian revolution martyrs into storytelling performances. This richly kaleidoscopic film is at once observational documentary, concert film, political meditation, and visual translation of an ever-popular symphonic and literary classic.