“LEYUAD” WINS THE WHITE CAMEL AT FiSahara 2016

The first prize of the  13th edition was for filmmakers Brahim Chagaf, Gonzalo Moure and Inés G. Aparicio

The documentary of  “Sonita” by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami won second prize and the third prize went to  “Gurba, the condemned”. The short  “Out of frame”  was awarded FiSahara’s `special prize.

Spanish actress Clara Lago received the prize FiSahara-Eduardo Galeano for her support for the Sahrawi cause.

FiSahara’s famed white camel entered center stage on Saturday October 15th in the Sahrawi refugee camps near the Algerian town of Tindouf, in the heart of the Sahara Desert, as one of the world’s most remote film festivals came to a close and presented this year’s winners with their awards.

For the first time in the thirteen year-old festival’s history the top prize went to a Sahrawi filmmaker, Brahim Chagaf, who co-directed the poetic road movie Leyuad along with Spanish filmmakers Inés G. Aparicio and Gonzalo Moure. The film follows Sahrawi poet Limam Boisha to Leyuad, a mountainous region in the liberated Western Sahara where poets drink from deep wells for inspiration. Chagaf was awarded FiSahara’s trademark prize, a live white camel with traditional Sahrawi mount, which he donated to the film school in the refugee camps where he began his career as a filmmaker. “I want to share this with my school, my second home, the cradle of Sahrawi film“, said Chagaf after receiving the prize.

FiSahara awarded the second prize to the documentary Sonita, by Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, a film about an Afghan teenager living in Iran as a refugee whose dream of becoming a rap star is threatened by her family’s attempt to sell her into marriage in Afghanistan. “This is the most inspiring film festival I have ever been in”, Ghaemmaghami said after receiving the award. “I am really glad that Sonita has been so well received by the Sahrawi people”.

The third prize was for the documentary Gurba, the Condemned by Spanish filmmaker Miguel Angel Tobías, which portrays the harsh reality of Sahrawis living in exile for forty years and follows the work of a de-mining team along the 2.700 kilometer separation wall built by Morocco.

The ceremony was presented by acclaimed Spanish actress Clara Lago, who introduced the gala while swinging from a trapeze, and RASD Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Omar took the stage to congratulate the winners.

FiSahara’s jury gave out two additional awards. The festival’s special prize went to Palestinian filmmaker Riham Ghazali’s short film Out of Frame, a portrait of two women in Gaza, an activist and a photographer, who must deal with the dual challenge of working as women under occupation. Ghazali, who co-facilitated a filmmaking workshop for Sahrawi women, said that the Sahrawi and the Palestinian people faced “similar struggles against occupation”. Lago was surprised to learn that she was the recipient of the other prize, the FiSahara-Eduardo Galeano human rights award, in gratitude for her commitment to the Sahrawi cause.

The festival drew to a close after several days of film screenings under the stars, roundtables, filmmaking workshops, Sahrawi musical concerts and camel races. The renowned Spanish rock group Vetusta Morla played the final concert.

José Taboada, president of the NGO CEAS-Sahara and co-director of the festival, said that the thirteenth edition was “an opportunity to reconnect with our Sahrawi family but at the same time an utter shame that we get to leave and that they must remain here in the desert, without any progress in the resolution of the conflict.” Taboada made an urgent appeal to Spain, which will preside the UN Security Council in December, “to launch initiatives conducive to holding the long-promised referendum on self-determination and so that there can be adequate monitoring of the human rights violations taking place daily inside the occupied Western Sahara.

María Carrión, Executive Director of FiSahara, celebrated the choice of winners: “By winning the white camel Brahim has shown how far Sahrawi filmmaking has come in just over a decade, from a time when cinema was barely known here” she said. “He and other Sahrawi filmmakers are now able to tell their stories to the world using the most powerful medium there exists.” She added: “The eyes of the world these days have been on the Sahrawi people and on the occupation of their homeland. We are witnessing how cameras and film have become essential tools in their struggle against occupation. It is through these images that the hearts of people across the world are touched.

During this edition FiSahara lauched two projects. Watching Western Sahara is an online video curation platform created by FiSahara and the New York City-based NGO WITNESS that will give visibility to citizen videos filmed in the occupied territory by activists who risk their lives and security to get their stories out to the world. It was presented to the media and international public by Sahrawi video activists and by its managing editor, former WITNESS Media Lab program manager Madeleine Bair. Solar Cinema Western Sahara, a joint project of FiSahara and the Amsterdam-based Solar World Cinema, is a travelling solar-powered cinema that will provide film screenings year-round in the refugee camps.

The festival was dedicated to occupied peoples around the world and hosted a group representing occupied, indigenous peoples from West Papua, Canada, Ecuador, Palestine and Armenia, who issued a statement of support. “We came here to learn from your struggle and to share our own experience of struggle to bear witness, to build solidarity and to take this message back to our own communities and to the rest of the world”, read the statement, which was read onstage by Ghazali.

The festival’s final activity after the ceremony was a visit to the separation wall built by Morocco, where participants witnessed first-hand the presence of landmines and called for its demolition.