Richard Raymond has teamed up with internationally renowned dancer and choreographer Akram Khan to bring his directorial debut 'Desert Dancer' to the big screen. The British film stars Frieda Pinto, Reece Ritchie and Tom Cullen.

Set in Iran, where dance is illegal and punishable by prison - Desert Dancer is the incredible true story of Afshin Ghaffarian who risks everything to fight for his dreams.

The story follows Afshin as he hacks into YouTube (also banned in Iran) and teaches himself how to dance by watching music videos - everything from Michael Jackson and Bob Fosse to Pina Bausch, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. With YouTube as his teacher, Afshin starts an underground dance company at university with his friends. As their skills develop the group put on a secret dance performance deep in the desert. Their story plays out against the 2009 protests, when the passion and defiance of a young generation lit the flame of revolution still sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

Director Richard Raymond said: “When I first discovered this story, I immediately connected with it and felt compelled to share it with the widest audience. It’s a story that provokes unity and reminds us of the hope to be found in human resilience and in the simple determination to fight for what is right. This film reflects a belief that we should all have the same rights and basic freedoms, no matter where we come from. And most importantly, we should all have the opportunity to realise our dreams. 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.”

Choreographer Akram Khan said: “'This film is the beginning of the end of a tradition of trying to capture dance... Because 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.”

Desert Dancer also stars Nazanin Boniadi, who is an official spokesperson for Amnesty International USA and has campaigned against the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.

The film will start Principal Photography in Casablanca on October 17th 2012, before moving to London and then finally Paris. Desert Dancer will be released in the UK in 2013.

Image Credit: © Laurent Ziegler