December 21, 2010

LGBTQ Female Role Models: Shamim Sarif

Born in 1969 in England, Shamim Sarif is a current writer and filmmaker. She has received numerous awards on her works as both an author and as a screenwriter and film director ("Best Director" at the South African Film Festival, World Cinema Best Director), and more informally she won an 2008 Visiblity Award as the "International Lesbian/Bisexual Woman of the Year". Another fun fact: her and her partner, Hannan Kattan, formed their own entertainment production company called "Enlightenment Productions". This is remeniscent of queer women creating their own spaces when the current system just doesn't cut it, such as Joan Jett from two weeks ago, who formed her own recording label-and was the first woman to ever do so.

Sarif's first film and novel, The World Unseen, is a story set in Cape Town, South Africa at the beginning of apartheid in the 1950s. Sarif herself has a personal connection to South Africa, as both her parents and grandparents were born and lived there. The story surronds two Indian South African women who work against the racism, sexism, homophobia and political tensions that they encounter in their lives.

The World Unseen (2008 release)

Sarif has also released I Can't Think Straight, as a film and novel, which is a modern-day story of two women in London who navigate family and cultural prescriptions about sexuality. If you watch the two trailers, you'll notice that Sarif uses the same actresses, Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in both films, which is sort of an interesting and unique connection between the two films.

I personally really admire Shamim Sarif for making films of substance about LGBTQ women, especially regarding policital/cultural themes. As an openly lesbian herself, Sarif is a role model for visibility in addition to her accomplishments as a filmmaker and author. I've also seen both these movies, and I think I'd definitely rank them both in the top 10 LGBTQ women's films that I've seen, so if you have any free time over break, definitely check them out!

And lastly, if you like these films/novels, Sarif actually has more LGBTQ women's movies in the making: her second novel "Despite the Falling Snow" is being filmed now, and is a lesbian story set in Cold War Stalinist Moscow. I'm personally impressed by the initiative in which Sarif has decided to use her talent as an author and director to advance LGBTQ women's visibility, and I hope other openly LGBTQ women and their allies are motivated by her films and openness.

I Can't Think Straight (2008 Release)


  1. Love love love Shamim Sarif. I watched "I Can't Think Straight" earlier in the semester (and fell in love with Sheetal Sheth). I recently ordered her first two books off of Amazon but they have yet to arrive. Can't wait to read them, though.

  2. Also love Shamim Sarif. Saw "Can't Think Straight" and really enjoyed it. Really dig that she's showing some of the great diversity of LGBTQ women!