Spanish Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem described the Sahara International Film Festival as “nothing short of a miracle’. The festival known as FiSahara took place in Sahrawi refugee camps in the Sahara desert on October 8-13, and included screenings of over 30 films from around the world, as well as workshops, concerts and camel races.
The event is a unique opportunity for the thousands of Saharawi refugees to be expose to international cinema in an environment of peace that highlights the work of the artists. This amazing desert film festival will be attended by over 200 international actors, directors, human rights and video activists and cinephiles.
Now on its 10th edition, the program aims to inform and inspires by presenting an incredible body of films that hardly ever get to be seen in this region of the world. From short films to animation and documentaries, and even blockbusters like the Academy Award-winning film by Ang Lee Life of Pi or The Impossible were screened alongside original work from Sahrawi refugees. 18 short films, created by refugee students through the Cinema for the Sahrawi People program that set up a film school in the camps in 2011, represented the local talent.
Javier Bardem, who attended FiSahara in 2008, said:“To run an international film festival in a refugee camp deep in the Sahara desert is little short of a miracle. The 10th edition of FiSahara promises to be one of the best, not only entertaining and educating all who participate but also helping to raise awareness about the plight of the Saharawi refugees who have been exiled from their native Western Sahara for almost four decades.” Out his visit Bardem co-produced and starred in a film about the Western Sahara Sons of the Clouds, and has now partnered with the Robert Kennedy Foundation for Human Rights and Justice to advocate for human rights in the Western Sahara.
This year’s program in particular included a series of films on social justice and the Arab Spring thanks to the partnership with Amnesty International’s Movies that Matter film festival. These films attempt to develop cinema as tools for change that will encourage viewers to not be indifferent to the injustices committed against humanity all over the globe. Some of highlights in the program were the Academy Award-nominated Five Broken Cameras (Palestine/ Israel), Wadjda (Saudi Arabia), My Makzhen & Me (Morocco) and The Suffering Grasses (United States-Syria)