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An International Film Festival in the Sahrawi Desert Refugee Camp

Deep in the Sahara desert in the Sahrawi refugee camps, the 12th edition of FiSaharathe Western Sahara International Film Festival– took place from April 28 through May 3, 2015.

Some have described this notable event that takes place under extraordinary circumstance “little short of a miracle”. The festival attracting hundreds of international actors, filmmakers and cinephiles, bands and singers alongside thousands of Sahrawi refugees and people from all over the world, is unique due to its political and social state of affairs.

Western Sahara dubbed Africa’s last colony is located between the west of the desert and the Atlantic, divided by the second longest wall in the world. The Sahrawi people, who this year marks 40 years of living in exile, have been waiting for a self-determination referendum for four decades. The Sahrawis fled their homeland in 1975 as Morocco and Mauritania invaded: a transfer of control from Spain. Mauritania withdrew in 1979 while the Moroccan occupation continues until today, as UN-supported negotiations on a referendum continue at a diplomatic impasse. And in spite of infrequent news that circulates regarding the Sahrawi state and story, categorically their situation is a question of humanity that calls for social justice.


In our time, Western Sahara is a unique non-self-governing territory in Africa (Spain remains the ‘administering power’), and remarkably, regardless of plight, the passivity of the international community regarding their circumstances, 40-years of living in exile, generations in refugee camps, and neglect of their human rights, resiliently their spirit has not been broken. They continue to fight for self-determination and call attention to their story, which is at the heart of FISahara Film Festival –a human rights film festival that aims to raise awareness.

The 2015 festival screened over 30 films, around “Universal Justice but also including entertainment and Sahrawi films –award-winning films ranging from documentaries to animations, short-films to Oscar-winning blockbusters. Included was also audiovisual workshops aimed at teaching the refugees filmmaking techniques, and screenings of films made by refugees themselves”.

The festival, part of the Human Rights Film Network was said to not only offer entertainment and educational opportunities for the refugees but also to remind the Sahrawi “they have not been forgotten.”


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