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Screenwriting partners Maryam Keshavarz and Paolo Marinou-Blanco won this year’s $15,000 San Francisco Film Society/Hearst Screenwriting Grant for continuing development of their script, The Last Harem. Musa Syeed received an honorable mention for his script The Doctor.

The Last Harem is described as “A battle between a young female musician and the mother of the newly ascended boy-king for the affection of the new monarch and control of the palace’s extensive harem will determine who becomes the most powerful woman in the Persian empire.”

Circumstance, Maryam Keshavarz’s first narrative feature, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and won the Sundance Audience Award. The film also won Best First Film at the Rome Film Festival and the Audience and Best Actress Awards at Outfest, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. The Last Harem is slated to be her third narrative feature as a director.

Paolo Marinou-Blanco’s first feature, Goodnight Irene, premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to much critical acclaim, went on to travel to dozens of international festivals and was theatrically released in Europe in 2008. The Last Harem is his first collaboration with writer/director Maryam Keshavarz.

Honorable mention fillm, Musa Syeed’s The Doctor’s synopsis, “A lowly construction worker in New York City has managed to convince his family in India that he’s still a doctor. When they send his younger brother to live with him, he maintains the charade by working at the one clinic that will let him practice without a license.”

Musa Syeed’s debut feature film Valley of Saints premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for World Cinema: Dramatic and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. He previously co-directed Bronx Princess (Official Selection, Berlinale) and produced A Son’s Sacrifice (Best Doc Short, Tribeca Film Festival), both of which aired nationally on PBS.

Previous winners of the SFFS/Hearst Screenwriting Grant are Ian Olds and Paul Felten for The Western Habit (2011), Eric Escobar for East County (2010) and Mora Stephens for Made in the USA (2009).

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