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World’s Remotest Film Festival Marks Its 11th Anniversary

The festival takes place in the Sahara desert, 170 kilometres away from the nearest village.

By Laetitia Laubscher
April 30, 2014
By Laetitia Laubscher
April 30, 2014

The Sahara International Film Festival (FiSahara) is a festival unlike any other - not only is it the world's remotest, it is also the world's only film festival held inside a refugee camp.

The film festival is situated in the stucco-and-tented sun-baked Dakhla refugee camp on the outskirts of the Algerian desert, about 170 kilometres from the nearest city Tindouf. Dahkla is one of four refugee camps, altogether housing around 165,000 people, and has been in operation since around 1976. Most inhabitants were born and raised in the camps.

Film festival goers are a mixture of camp inhabitants and foreigners, who spend the festival week (April 29 - May 4 this year) living with refugees under the same roof. Famous attendants in the past have included actress Penelope Cruz, Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar and and actor Javier Bardem.

The festival's main aim is to bring international attention to the Sahrawi refugees who cannot re-enter their country due to Moroccan occupation, as well as provide refugees with an important cultural platform. Films screened include documentaries and feature films about fellow refugees in other countries, Hollywood blockbusters and films made by the refugees at their in-house media school set up by the festival in 2011.The director of the best film in the festival is awarded a (real) white camel. Other festival activities include camel desert races, traditional dances and circus perfomances.

In 2012 film star Javier Bardem made an acclaimed documentary, Sons of the Clouds, about the Sahrawi refugees and the festival itself. "Unlike most things planted in the desert, the FiSahara film festival has taken root and continues to grow and flourish," he says.

Published on April 30, 2014 by Laetitia Laubscher


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