News: Akram Khan's first feature film

Monday 15 October 2012

Akram Khan with Freida Pinto - at the launch of 'Desert Dancer', 9 October. Photo: Bettina Strenske

Choreographer Akram Khan is collaborating with director Richard Raymond on his first venture in to film making.

Desert Dancer is based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, who living in Iran, where dance is illegal, taught himself to dance by hacking in to youtube (also illegal in Iran) and watching videos of all kinds of dance – from Michael Jackson to Pina Bausch – via Bob Fosse, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. He formed an underground dance company at university with his friends – who together put on a secret dance performance deep in the desert -all against the background of the 2009 protests in Iran and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.

Actor Reece Ritchie plays Afshin, alongside Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto – and Tom Cullen. The cast have been in training since last November, taking classes in ballet and other dance forms and then working intensively with Akram Khan and his company. Freida Pinto said: “Physically I have definitely become stronger, but I’ve found that dance has made me emotionally stronger as well – so for me working on this film has been training for life.”

Speaking at a launch event before leaving the UK to start filming next week in Morocco, all the team talked about their commitment to Desert Dancer and the importance of dance as an expression of human rights. In the midst of a run of performances of his award winning solo show Desh, Akram Khan said “This film is not just about dance, but about the very purpose and reason why dance is so important in our lives. I am extremely excited to be working alongside the vision and passion of Richard, where at once, he sees and captures the true essence of the body. Not only is the story an inspiring one about the struggle to free oneself from a political regime through dance, but it is also the very freedom we all have a right to have, regardless of what country, what nationality, or what culture we come from. Dance transcends these boundaries, and film allows us to witness the fleeting moments of the soul in action. I feel this film reveals just that.”

Director Richard Raymond added: “It has been a privilege and a great experience to collaborate with Akram, whose interpretation of dance is not just visually mesmerising but also beautifully spiritual and it is a testament to the passion and love surrounding this film that such a talented and dedicated cast have worked so hard in training with us.”

Filming starts in Casablanca this week, before moving to London and then Paris. Desert Dancer will be released in the UK in 2013.

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