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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem described the Sahara International Film Festival, which will take place in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Sahara desert next month, as “nothing short of a miracle.” He was speaking from Madrid as the program of more than 30 films from around the world, as well as workshops, concerts and camel races, was unveiled in London.
The festival, known as FiSahara, which runs Oct. 8-13 in a desert refugee camp, will be attended by more than 200 international actors, directors, human rights and video activists and cinephiles, alongside thousands of Saharawi refugees. This year’s festival will also have a strong South African contingent with filmmakers, activists and representatives of the Ministry of Arts and Culture attending and running workshops.
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“To run an international film festival in a refugee camp deep in the Sahara desert is little short of a miracle,” Bardem said. “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.”
Bardem’s support for the Saharawi people, which began following his visit to the festival in 2008, has led him to create a documentary highlighting the political situation in the area and to speak at the UN on behalf of the refugees.
At its heart, FiSahara is a human rights film festival. Strengthened by its partnership with Amnesty International’s Movies that Matter film festival, this year’s program includes a series of films about social justice and the Arab Spring. Highlights include Five Broken Cameras (Palestine/Israel), Wadjda (Saudi Arabia), My Makzhen & Me (Morocco), The Runner (Western Sahara) and The Suffering Grasses (United States-Syria).
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Festival guests will fly to Tindouf, Algeria and travel more than 100 miles in convoy into the desert to the Dakhla refugee camp, home to roughly 30,000 refugees. They will stay with refugee families, living in their stucco and tented homes and enjoying the unique Saharawi hospitality. Film screenings will take place after sundown, projected onto multiplex-sized screens.
“We are delighted to be involved with FiSahara and to help shed light on the invisible human rights and humanitarian crisis in Western Sahara,” said Wim Brouwer, coordinator of Movies that Matter. “The central aim of Amnesty International’s A Matter of ACT program is to support initiatives that raise awareness on the work of human rights defenders, as well as stimulate debate and discussion.”
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