About Sanjay Shah
Lots of youngsters dream of making it big in Hollywood. Most start early. Few go about it as indirectly as I did.
Actually, let’s back up.
I’m not a famous Hollywood actor. I’m not about to share screen time with Denzel Washington or Emma Stone. It’s just not gonna happen.
But I have done my small part to turn some young actors’ dreams into reality. And I’m honored to have helped one of the world’s most promising young directors make his mark on the film world.
Making a Mark in Unfamiliar Territory
A couple of years back, I served as an executive producer for Under the Shadow. As soon as I came on board, I realized I was working with a truly special group of production professionals. As work progressed, my only concern was that their diligence wouldn’t earn the recognition it deserved.
Happily, my concerns were unfounded. Under the Shadow went on to win a BAFTA for outstanding debut. (For those not familiar, the BAFTAs are the British Film and Television Awards, the U.K.’s most prestigious visual entertainment honors. Basically, the BAFTAs are the Emmys and Academy Awards rolled into one—or the British version of the Golden Globes, if you like.)
Four members of the production team were specifically called out for the honor: writer/director Babak Anvari, without whom none of this would have been possible; and producers Emily Leo, Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill.
Other Awards and Accolades for Under the Shadow
In any other context, the BAFTA ceremony would have been the highlight of Under the Shadow’s run. But, thanks to the hard work of its production crew, Under the Shadow earned a slew of additional accolades. (And last I checked, the praise is still trickling in.) Here’s a sampling:
- Rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film debuted in January 2016
- Widespread distribution by Netflix and a limited theatrical run in the United States
- Selected as the British entry for best foreign language film at the 89th Academy Awards
- 8.1 out of 10 score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 98% “Certified Fresh” rating
- 86 out of 100 score on Metacritic
- Won the H.R. Giger “Narcisse” Award for the best feature film at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival
- Named “best film of 2016” by famed film critic Mark Kermode
Awards are lovely, but I’m particularly proud of the rave reviews Under the Shadow received from critics, a notoriously tough bunch. It’s not easy to poke above 8 on Rotten Tomatoes or exceed 85 on Metacritic—plenty of Oscar-winning films fall short of those numbers. The filmmaking community doesn’t always have the coziest relationship with its critics, and much of their apprehension is justified, but the fact of the matter is: If the critics are in near-universal agreement about your film’s quality, you’re probably doing something right.
What’s Next for the Under the Shadow Team
Under the Shadow set a high bar for its cast and crew, but I have no doubt the hardworking professionals who brought it to fruition will go on to do great things in the future.
Fresh off his BAFTA win, director Babak Anvari is pouring himself into his writing and directing career with renewed vigor. I predict we’ll see another top-flight entry from him before long.
Star actress Narges Rashidi, whose Iranian-German background makes her a great fit for an array of roles across multiple genres, adds Under the Shadow to her already impressive list of accomplishments. (Back in 2007, she earned the Best Breakthrough Actress Award at the New York International Film and Video Festival.) She has several new projects in the works—definitely a performer to keep your eye on.
As for me? My work with Autism Rocks keeps me pretty busy day-to-day, but I’m always looking for new opportunities to help talented actors, directors and producers shine. Don’t worry—you’ll hear about them first here.
More Information About Under the Shadow
Curious about Under the Shadow? Here are some fast facts:
- Production company: Wigwam Films, with help from the Doha Institute
- Executive producers: Patrick Fischer, Khaled Haddad, Nick Harbinson, Duncan McWilliam, Sanjay Shah (yours truly!)
- Photography: Kit Fraser
- Production design: Nasser Zoubi
- Principal cast: Narges Rashidi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi, Hamid Djavadan, Nabil Koni
- Music: Gavin Cullen, Will McGillivray
- Run time: 84 inutes (quick enough for a weeknight!)
You can find more information and a full synopsis at the British Film Council.