It could be said the output from London's Enlightenment Productions is like the old adage about buses: you wait a long time for one and all of a sudden, two show up.
Writer-director Shamim Sarif and producer Hanan Kattan are in the unusual position of finishing two features within several months of each other: romantic comedy I Can't Think Straight and drama The World Unseen.
Both films - budgeted under $10m - also share leading ladies Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth. "It's about getting good actors because its all character-driven, if you don't empathise with the characters then the stories don't work," Sarif explains.
In Think Straight, Ray plays a London-based woman of Palestinian origin who meets a young British-Indian woman Leyla (Sheth). That film was shot first but one financier left the film in limbo; the film-makers have since rebounded - thanks in part to help from well-connected executive producer Lisa Tchenguiz Imerman.
The World Unseen, a co-production with South Africa's DO Productions, was in official selection at Toronto and London festivals in 2007 but the picture was finally locked this summer. In The World, Sheth plays the iconoclast who befriends a doting housewife (Ray) in apartheid-era South Africa.
Kattan notes: "I'd say common themes for Shamim are strong females going on a journey and overcoming political and cultural obstacles. But these aren't political movies, they are about people."
North American rights to both films have been taken by here! Films/Regent Releasing, with November releases planned, and potential UK deals are still in discussions.
Sarif came to film-making from being a novelist. Her first novel was The World Unseen, on which the film is based, which won the Pendleton May First Novel Award and the Betty Trask Award. She is finishing the novel version of I Can't Think Straight. "I had done screenplays so I knew I needed to be disciplined looking at it in a different medium altogether," Sarif notes.
Next up for the pair in 2009 will be Despite The Falling Snow, based on Sarif's second novel, a story of passion and betrayal in Cold War Russia. They plan to shoot at least some exteriors in Moscow, and may set it up as a UK co-production with Russia or Canada.