For well over a century, Félix Nadar’s 1891 portrait of Selika Lazevski has captured imaginations. Selika is said to be a celebrated equestrian of Nineteenth Century Paris circuses, and her confident posture gives every indication that she could take on the sidesaddle dressage of the age at its highest levels.
Yet, cultural historians have struggled to verify the very existence of Mademoiselle Lazevski. Indeed, her story so completely eludes researchers, that some have speculated that Nadar photographed an unknown model and concocted the biography to improve sales of his own work. Nevertheless, Selika’s portraits appear in the French Archives, lending credibility to Nadar’s account.
Whether real or staged, Selika’s portrait strikes a chord with modern audiences. The strength and pride that shines in Selika is applauded as a flash of feminism in an otherwise repressive society. The photograph appears in “La France Noire,” a book that described three centuries of black culture in France, and kicks off the coffee-table book “Vintage Black Glamour,” which puts a spotlight on black actors, dancers, writers and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business.
Now, Sybil Mair is set to give Selika a cinematic story worthy of the photograph. Mair’s new short film, “The Adventures of Selika” will be a coming of age story about a young African princess, who is displaced by war and sent to be raised by a noble family mid-Nineteenth Century France. When Selika is forced from the comfort and safety of her second family, she sets out for Paris to forge her own path in the world.
Selika will be brought to life by Cesar nominated French actress Karidja Toure (Girlhood), who learned how to horseback ride for the film. Award-winning writer-director Sybil Mair will be returning to the equestrian world with this film, hot of the heels of her success with “The Equestrian.”
Principal photograph is already complete and the film is set for release in 2017. The power-packed combination of Toure, Mair, and, of course, Mademoiselle Lazevski, promises to put forth an equestrian tale for the ages!