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TORONTO — As violence continued to erupt in Northern Africa and the Middle East on Thursday, Javier Bardem expressed concern that Western powers aren’t putting enough pressure on certain regimes to promote human rights and democracy, thus risking more unrest and death.
Bardem and Spanish director Alvaro Longoria — who produced Che and Looking for Fidel — are in Toronto for the premiere of their documentary Sons of the Clouds, about the little-known plight of the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara region of North Africa.
More than 200,000 Sahrawi people have lived for decades in squalid refugee camps in Algeria after fleeing Morocco, which occupied parts of Western Sahara after the Spanish left in the mid-1970s. Roughly 150,000 Sahrawi remain in Morocco, with many claiming they are oppressed by the government there.
Bardem and Longoria, along with fellow producer Lily Hartley, spent four years making Sons of the Clouds and say they are discouraged that the U.S. and France are such strong allies of Morocco that they don’t push for a resolution to the Sahrawi problem. They say the United Nations should do more as well, adding they were refused interviews with numerous diplomats, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“That’s the world we live in. We live in a world of denial, and we don’t know what the truth is anymore,” Bardem said in an interivew with THR. “Morocoo has done wrong. The Sahrawi have truth and law on their side.”
Bardem said the Sahrawi — who are Muslim — are very peaceful, but he and Longoria worry the situation could change the more the problem isn’t addressed, noting the escalating violence elsewhere that resulted in the death of U.S. Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens earlier this week by a rioting crowd.
“The last few days prove that unless you solve a conflict, things will blow up. The Sahwari have refused to use violence, but in this world, unless you do something nasty, no one seems to pay attention,” Longoria said, adding that he watched the trailer for the anti-Muslim film which is reportedly prompting the most recent demonstrations and violence.
Sons of the Clouds, from Wild Bunch, will have a special screening at the IFC Center in New York before premiering on iTunes and other digital platforms. The filmmakers also are working with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights to host a screening in Washington, D.C.
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Jon M. Chu