Pedro Almodovar tells London audience he is “a great supporter” of desert festival

The 12th edition of the Western Sahara International Film Festival – known as FiSahara – will take place from 28 April until 3 May 2015 in the Sahrawi refugee camps deep in the Sahara desert, in Southwestern Algeria.

Described by Javier Bardem as “little short of a miracle“, the festival attracts hundreds international actors, filmmakers and cinephiles. As well as its primary Sahrawi audience, it is attended by a varied public from all over the world and well-known bands and singers. Films are projected at night onto huge outdoor screens and this year’s programme – themed around Universal Justice but also including entertainment and Sahrawi films – will include award-winning films ranging from documentaries to animations, short-films to Oscar-winning blockbusters. There will also be audiovisual workshops aimed at teaching the refugees film-making techniques and screenings of films made by refugees themselves.

Pedro Almodovar, in London to promote the stage adaptation of his film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, told an audience at the BFI: “It’s very important for the Saharawi refugees to see films from around the world. To support them is not a question of humanitarianism. It’s about humanity, about having heart.

At its heart, FiSahara is a human rights film festival which aims to raise awareness on the plight the refugees, who this year mark 40 years of living in exile. They fled their homeland of the Western Sahara in 1975 as Morocco and Mauritania invaded. Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and the Moroccan occupation continues to this day, as UN-supported negotiations on a referendum continue at a diplomatic impasse. The festival, part of the Human Rights Film Network and whose partners include Movies that Matter and WITNESS, not only offers entertainment and educational opportunities for the refugees but also serves to remind them that they have not been forgotten.

Maria Carrion, FiSahara’s Executive Director said: “Taking place just before Cannes, FiSahara is an international film festival like no other. Nowhere else can you watch films under the stars, see world class musicians, enjoy Sahrawi cultural traditions such as camel races and participate in roundtables by human rights experts addressing impunity and injustice. We are delighted to announce the dates for the twelfth edition and look forward to seeing everyone with a passion for films, filmmaking and social justice with us in the desert.

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner said: “I’m a big fan of the world’s most remote film festival, FiSahara. Held in refugee camps in the desert it entertains and educates Saharawi people who have fled the Moroccan occupation of their homeland. It not only helps raise awareness of the occupation, it also empowers the Saharawi people by bringing to the camps films, training, skills and equipment so they can make their own movies and tell their own story.

FESTIVAL DATES – 28th April – 3rd May 2015

The full programme of films, special guests and headline performers will be announced soon.

For more information and to book your place visit http://festivalsahara.org/vel-al-festival-formulario/?lang=en  or contact vuelos@festivalsahara.org

FOR DONATIONS VISIT http://festivalsahara.org/colabora-2/donativos/?lang=en

Festival guests and visitors will fly from Madrid to Tindouf, Algeria, on a festival-chartered flight and travel over 100 miles in convoy into the desert to Dakhla refugee camp, home to around 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 under the stars.

The trip costs 700 Euros (including flights/accommodation/food/ground transport/etc). The flight leaves Madrid on the morning of Tuesday 28th April and return late on Saturday 3rd May.