Sheherazade Words Against Death

Part of a Journey to the Heart of Arab Culture
with Three New Films by Nacer Khemir

Language: André Miquel: An Encounter with the Arabic Language

Imagination: Scheherazade: Words Against Death

Faith: Looking for Muhyiddin


“One listens to the stories and does not want them ever to end!”
— Martial Knaebel

The collected work known as “One Thousand and One Nights” survived for centuries through generations of Arab storytellers, and is now recognized as an integral part of world literature. In this filmed performance, storyteller/filmmaker Nacer Khemir sits on chair in the middle of a dimly lit stage and deploys the magic of words to take us on a journey of the imagination. This simple set-up may not seem like much, but it offers the listener an extraordinarily colorful experience and brilliantly emphasizes the oral nature of the work. As we listen to the expertly told stories, we are equally charmed by their intricacies and entranced by their interconnectedness. Even though Khemir illustrates some of the stories with beautifully filmed sequences, the audience’s ability to listen is paramount here. Sheherazade used words to avoid impending death, Khemir uses the art of storytelling to breathe a new life into this ancient masterwork.


This film is available with a Digital Site License (DSL), which allows colleges, universities, or libraries to encode, locally host, and stream the film to their community on a closed, password-protected system.

Rental Information:

This film is available from AFD for public screenings and television broadcast. For information regarding rental rates and formats, please contact  for institutional/non-theatrical screenings, or for theatrical, festival, television, or other bookings.

About the Filmmaker:

Through cinema, painting, sculpture, calligraphy, writing and storytelling, Nacer Khemir has thrown bridges between shores, North and South, East and West. Since he directed “The Story of the Land of God,” for the French channel (Antenne 2) in 1975, he has written, directed, and produced a number of feature films and documentaries. In 1984, he won the top award at the Film Festival of the Three Continents, in Nantes, France for his first feature film “The Wanderers of the Desert.” He then won the “Tanit D’or” at the Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia, and the Golden Palm leaf at the Valencia Film Festival, and the Critic’s award at the Venice Film Festival. In 1991, his film “The Dove’s Lost Necklace” won the Special Jury Award at the Locarno Festival, the top award at the Belfort Film Festival in France as well the Jury’s Special Award at the Festival of French-Speaking Films in St-Martin. In 1991, he directed “In Search of the Arabian Nights” for the French channel (FR3). In 2005, he cowrote and directed “Bab Aziz, The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul” which won the Golden Dagger at the Muscat Film Festival and the Henry Langlois Prize. In 2007, Nacer Khemir was featured in Swiss director’s Bruno Moll film “Journey To Tunis” about the travels of Paul Klee in Tunisia in 1914 and its influence on his painting. In 2008 Khemir directed “The Alphabet of My Mother” a digital short film which was produced by the JeonJu International Film Festival and premiered at the Locarno and Melbourne film festivals. In 2010 he produced and directed the documentary “André Mique: An Encounter with the Arabic Language.” In 2011 he co-produced and directed “Sheherazade, Words Against Death.” In 2012 he produced and directed “Looking for Muhyiddin” an epic spiritual odyssey about the life and philosophy of the Muslim mystic Ibn Arabi. “Looking for Muhyiddin” won Barzaj Prize in Spain. In 2013 he produced and directed “Yasmina and the 60 Names of Love” and he has just finished production on “Where to Start?”. Nacer Khemir’s films consistently interrogate the myths of the past in order to question and illuminate the future.