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Media Room

Shedding Light on the Saharawi Plight

FILMS

Films have and continue to play a vital role in shedding light on the still largely unknown Saharawi story.  For a long time the telling of it was dominated by outside perspectives. In recent years, however, thanks to mobile phone technology and efforts to develop filmmaking capacity in the refugee camps, more films are now being made by Saharawis.

In 2011, the Abidin Kaid Saleh Film School opened its doors in the Saharawi refugee camp of Boujdour, to start training a future generation of Saharawi filmmakers. It is named after the first Saharawi filmmaker, a self taught war correspondent who filmed many battles with his 8mm camera during the 16 year war between the Polisario front and Morocco and got injured doing so.  Over a decade onward, the film school carries on with its mission to nurture an emergent Saharawi cinema scene. 

Here we celebrate the exciting trend of Saharawis filming, narrating, editing, sharing and archiving human rights videos to tell their story, in their own voices. Below, we have created a short list of films that have been made throughout the years about the Saharawis and the conflict in Western Sahara. A much more  comprehensive list of over 200 films can be found on the website for the Saharawi Film School.  

ABOUT
FiSAHARA FESTIVAL

Created in 2003 as joint initiative by Saharawis in the camps and Spanish civil society, FiSahara (Western Sahara International Film Festival) has become an annual human rights film and cultural festival that seeks to entertain and empower the Saharawi people through film, as well to raise international awareness about the Western Sahara’s ignored conflict. It is the only international film festival in the world taking place in refugee camps.  The support of the FiSahara festival played a pivotal role in the creation of the Abidin Kaid Saleh Film School. Learn more about the festival on their website

TitleYearDirector(s)DetailsWatch
Insumisas2023Laura Dauden, Miguel Angel Herrera26 mins. Saharawi women have always been at the forefront of resistance against colonialism and Moroccan plunder of their territory. Activists living under occupation have come together despite repression to document the violence committed against them, their daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers since 1975. This historical process is presented through the voices of its protagonists in their triple role as victims, researchers and activists.Learn More!
I certainly don't know (Spanish: Ciertamente no lo sé)2023Alejandro Molano Vasque8 mins. The documentary gives insight into the situation for stateless Saharawi refugees in Spain. Full documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbKI4wB6T9A
A Refuge in the Stars (Spanish: Refugio en la Estrellas)2023Felipe Carreli, Demetrio Rodrigues69 mins. In 2019, the GalileoMobile project carried out astronomical outreach activities in the five Saharawi refugee camps to exchange knowledge and representations of the cosmos. Spanish trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhlgkqxzBj8
Little Sahara (Spanish: Pequeño Sahara) 2023Emilio Martí30 mins. Those who don’t know the Sahara believe that in the desert there’s only sand. But here there are kids who play, draw and make movies, just like this documentary that tells the story of the last European colony in Africa, the Western Sahara, and that of thousands of Sahrawi refugees living in exile.

Trailer:

https://vimeo.com/832291360
13N The Beginning of the End (Spanish: 13N El Principio del Fin2022Mikel Bejarano, Hijos de las Nubes, Taleb Alisalem 11 mins. A short documentary about the war going on in Western Sahara and how it affects the lives of Saharawis and their supporters. Full documentary (Spanish):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N99XzcjmpeA
The Time After the Rain (Spanish: El Tiempo Después de la lluvia)2022Julia Girós, Pol Picas, Nina Solà74 mins. Mohamed Dih visits Boujdour, the Sahrawi refugee camps where he grew up after spending adolescence in Seville. When a sudden storm destroys his home, he decides to stay longer than planned to rebuild it, take care of his blind grandfather, and meet his two-year-old nephew.English trailer:

https://vimeo.com/157499966
Western Sahara: Memories of Resistance (Spanish: Sahara Occidental: Memorias de una resistencia)2022Yolanda Priero 29 mins. This documentary aims to help shed light on this historical conflict, and to counter the silence of the majority of media outlets on the matter. A story built on the memories of its protagonists: the Saharawi women and men, the scholars, and the defenders of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination.Full film in Spanish:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYQ_K2oAkiI
AIMRA no man's land (Spanish: AIMRA Tierra de nadie)2022Pedro Pérez-Rosado, Lilian Rosado González83 mins. Western Sahara is a country full of stories. We chose to focus on the Saharawi women living in Spain, where they have taken up careers in different areas: doctors, nurses, teachers, artists, lawyers, writers. We coexist with them. Some are Muslim, others have strayed away from their original culture, although they remain persistent on defending the most ancestral parts of their traditions. It is a gaze through the exiled Saharawi woman’s eyes.Spanish trailer:

https://vimeo.com/697305780
Mutha & the death of Hamma-Fuku (Spanish: Mutha y la muerte de Hamma Fuku)2021Dani Suberviola25 mins. Mutha searches for antipersonnel mines in the Western Sahara Desert. Every day, she faces death. Every exploded landmine reminds her that she has saved a life, but also that a mine marked her destiny. She is not alone between the fire and the sand. At her side, a presence paralyses her, but also forces her to keep searching.Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jbjeeYXcbM
Echoes of Fighting (Spanish: Ecos de Lucha) 2021Mikel Bejarano 12 mins. On the 14th of November 2020 the Polisario Front considered breaking the ceasefire calling on the United Nations to intervene and declare a 'state of war' throughout the territory in response to an attack committed by Moroccan forces the day before. On the early morning of Thursday to Friday the 13th of November, at the border crossing of Guerguerat, Moroccan forces took action to expel a group of around 50 Saharawi civilians who were, since the 21st of October, blocking the connecting road with Mauritania in order to demand that the United Nations hold a referendum of autoindependence as was promised in 1991. In this short documentary the situation of the Saharawi people after the events of the 13th of November is explained.Full documentary (in Spanish):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E03vx0of0I
Breaking the Wall (Spanish: Rompiendo el Muro)2021Javier Rios, Robert Martín32 mins. A short documentary in support of the Saharawi people through the figure of the rapper Yslem "Son of the Desert", Bahia Madmuh, Concha Moya, Nadhira Mohamed and Javier Couso.Full documentary (in Spanish):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHNFZIQGgtk
Sandtracks2021Carolina Graterol22mins. An intimate look into Sandblast founder Danielle Smith’s mission to bring the unknown struggle of the Saharawi people for self-determination to wider attention. Full film:

https://youtu.be/8YVJKfkDTLQ
You Can't Get
There From Here
2021Peter Shields &
Daniel Petkoff
90mins. In 2018, filmmakers Daniel Petkoff and Peter Shields set out to cross the Sahara desert to deliver prosthetic limbs to the amputee unit at the Banjul hospital in Gambia. The film tells the story of a journey that starts from Plymouth and takes the filmmakers across Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania to reach The Gambia. While travelling through Western Sahara they meet underground Saharawi activists living under Morocco’s occupation there.Trailer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3wVySahYFd0
Desert Strawberries
(Spanish: Las Fresas del Desierto)
2021Mohamed Sleiman Labat 15 mins. Saharawi artist and visual poet Mohamed Sleiman Labat follows the story of the emerging phenomenon of small scale family gardens in his local community in the Hamada Desert. The film features the story of four families in Samara Camp with small scale gardens, their practices and the knowledge they develop as part of their practices in the garden. The camps are located in a very harsh environment with extreme climate conditions, and the Saharawi are still dependent on international food aid.Full film:

https://vimeo.com/676088738
Free Sultana (Spanish: Sultana Libre)2021Equipe Media 18 mins. The documentary #FreeSultana, tells the story of a Sahrawi activist who has been under house arrest for a year with her entire family, without a court order. During this time, the Moroccan paramilitaries have destroyed her house, stoned, assaulted, raped, poisoned the Jaya sisters.Watch full documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAaBzVFCZw8
You Can't Get There from Here 2021Daniel Petkoff, Peter Shields94 mins. An international team of 4 friends undertake the Plymouth to Dakar Challenge a ‘banger rally’ which annually shadows the route of the Paris Dakar Rally. They acquire two old Mercedes vans and take a 3 week route through Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. They arrange to transport prosthetic limbs for a Bristol based charity to a clinic in Gambia providing help to amputees. Interviewing a number of experts on the 30 year conflict between Morocco and the Saharawi natives, they arrange to meet with Saharawi ‘dissidents’ in the Western Sahara to expose their oppression by Moroccan authorities who they claim are occupying their land and profiting from their national resources. In doing so they evade detection and expulsion by Moroccan authorities and meet UN envoys who are overseeing the conflict. Struggling to get the vehicles to their destination, they team up with two adventurers driving a fire engine and a crazy Frenchman while crossing the minefields in the Sahara Desert. They encounter a diversity of landscapes, people and cultures enroute whilst exploring the nature of tourism, charity and how a disregard of human rights in favour of commercial interests threatens a new war in the Sahara desert.Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E75zcdHfnK8
A Plant in the Desert (Spanish: Una Planta en el Desierto)2021Claudia Sánchez20 mins. A photography workshop in the Saharawi refugee camps shows the situation of uprooted people through their own eyes. At the same time, the director tries to reestablish contact with her little sister from a Saharawi foster care, also affected by the invasion of her land.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsMugEzfbrY
Ocupacion SA2020Laura Dauden, Sebastián Ruiz Cabrera (Forward Films)41 mins. “Ocupación S.A.” is the portrait of a betrayal. In a thorough and unprecedented approach, the documentary presents the names and surnames of the Spanish businesspeople and politicians involved in the economic exploitation of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa and one of the most violent, militarized and censored territories in the world. Full film:

https://vimeo.com/490703822
A Place In the World (Spanish: Un lugar en el mundo)2020Francesco Ritondale52 mins. It’s a documentary about Saharawi people, removing of geography and politics, making it simply a "human" story. Giving a voice to this people who are in an impossible situation, forced to live confined in a refugee camp.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J6Fv275T9k
Limbo, a Forgotten Promise (Spanish: Limbo, la Promesa Olvidada)2020Antonio Rodrigo 52 mins. It can be said that Western Sahara is a limbo: it is the largest territory on the planet still to be decolonised, currently under Moroccan occupation since 1975 and waiting endlessly for its self-determination. In this film we will learn about the history of the oppression and resistance of the Sahrawi people, but also about its beauty and richness from the visual poetry, the sounds that evoke the Sahara and the inter-generational story of the protagonists in this history. A project promoted by the Andalusian organisations Nomadocs and Sahara Acción Granada that aims to make a forgotten and silenced testimony visible.Full film:

https://www.filmin.es/pelicula/limbo-la-promesa-olvidada?origin=searcher&origin-query=secondary
The Wall - Saharawi Wound 2020Gilberto Mastromatteo, Fiorella Bendoni 20 mins. Ahmed lost a leg because of a landmine. Fatimetu works as a deminer. Mohamed tells the story of the wall that divides his country, Western Sahara. Kadija would like to come back to her occupied city, but she no longer hope it.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjAvcHVIUcw
Saharawi women, pillars of life 'Hunna Raquizat Alhayat' (Spanish: Mujeres saharauis, el pilar de la vida)2020Eva Neira Carballo15 mins. Médicos del Mundo Sahara presents the "Hunna Raquizat Alhayat" campaign that tells the stories of 17 Saharawi refugee women with different specialties and responsibilities within the field of health. This campaign arises from the need to value their work and raise awareness around all the challenges they face in their day to day, with the aim of contributing to the construction of a fairer society for all people. Saharawi women have been and continue to be the ones who sustain the population or, in other words, they are the pillar of life.Full film (Spanish):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8oRBEBFFzc
Amaidan Salah: The Saharawi Marathon (Spanish: Amaidan Salah: La maratón de un Pueblo)2020Unai Garcia27 mins. A documentary about the situation of the Saharawi people in the refugee camps of Tindouf through the life and participation in the 2019 Sahara Marathon of the Saharawi athlete and political refugee Amaidan Salah. An amateur documentary made using only a cellphone.Full film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGaWewET37I
Looking for a Homeland: Saharawi refugees at the other side of the Moroccan wall2019
First Hand Films/Barbershop Episode 5
25 mins. Set in Smara refugee camp in SW Algeria, the interactions between barber and clients reveal the story of how the Saharawi of Western Sahara became refugees and touches on issues they face.Full film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctFz35vjURI&t=123s
Al-Najum (The Stars) 2019Diego Soria, Sidi Brahim 2 mins. Brief reflection on the fleetingness of time and the need to realize our aspirations. All this in concrete context, that of the Saharawi refugee camps.

Full film;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zh4Ls9JAsU
Crisis 2019Cesare Maglioni 1 min. In the middle of Western Sahara desert, where no water, no trees, no animals live but a bunch of refugees, struggling in poverty to survive the harsh habitat, the least of the problem one might face is the environmental crisis.

Full film:

https://nomadshrc.org/catalogue/public/films/84635
Hamada2018Eloy Domínguez Serén88 mins. With vitality, humor and unexpected situations, this film paints an unusual portrait of a group of young friends living in a refugee camp in the middle of the stony Saharan desert.Trailer:

https://www.eloydseren.com/HAMADA
Three Stolen Cameras2017Equipe Media, Ra Film17 mins. A Saharawi video activist group is struggling to keep their cameras in the occupied Western Sahara where the Moroccan authorities have managed to implement a near total media blockade.Full film:
http://www.3stolencameras.com/the-film/
Life is Waiting2015Iara Lee, Cultures of Resistance58 mins. Highlights the role of the arts non -violent resistance in the Saharawi cause and chronicles the everyday violence of life under the Moroccan occupation, giving voice to the aspirations of a desert people for whom colonialism has never ended.
Full film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QzRzm4uFxU
The Sahara's forgotten war2014VICE news36 mins. VICE News travels to Western Sahara's occupied and liberated territories, as well as the Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria, to find out more about one of the world's least reported conflicts.Full film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju4WrjiJbGc&ab_channel=VICENews
Poets of Protest- El Khadra: Poet of the Desert2012Artscape25 mins. Al Khadra is a renowned Sahrawi war poetess living in the Al-Auin camp in the Algerian desert. A vivid testament to several decades of the Sahara conflict, we see how she keeps her oral poetry alive and tries to pass on her activism to the next generation.Full film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzGD5xv0rKU
Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony (Spanish: Hijos de las nubes, la última colonia)2012Directed by Álvaro Longoria
Produced by Javier Bardem
81 mins. "A look at how colonization of the Western Sahara has left nearly 200,000 people living in refugee camps" in what is deemed "the last colony”.Full film:

https://vimeo.com/61751899
Aadat (traditions)2004Xisela Franco & Noé Rodríguez22 mins. In the reign of the inert; where the landscape is arid and dead and only infinite extensions of sand and stone exist; there are people who build their lives with their will. Forgotten, unheard, doomed to the most extreme and harsh survival conditions, the Saharawi people still hope for justice to be done.

Full film:

https://vimeo.com/89087200
Beat of Distant Hearts: the art of Revolution in Western Sahara1999Danielle Smith45 mins. Through the lives and works of poets, singers and painters, award-winning Beat of Distant Hearts explores the Saharawis’ collective experience of exile, loss and war and offers insight into how these art forms have played a role in the ongoing struggle.How to order:

https://www.arabfilm.com/item_print.html?itemID=180

A journey does not consist of the path you take, but of what you bring back with you."

- Saharawi proverb
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