Home Interviews Sahara: ‘‘My Land Knows Me’’ vs ‘‘The Lost Land’’: An Interview with...

Sahara: ‘‘My Land Knows Me’’ vs ‘‘The Lost Land’’: An Interview with Filmmaker Rabii El Jaouhari

By Yassmine Zerrouki

Morocco World News

Fez, February 13, 2012

‘‘My Land Knows Me!!!’’ is a documentary film directed by the talented filmmaker Rabii El Jaouhari. It comes as a response to ‘‘The Lost Land’’ by the French director Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd in which he tackles the Moroccan Sahara issue in a very biased way, to the extent that it generated some false ideas about Morocco’s history.

In an interview with Rabii El Jaouhari, he talked to Morocco World News about his documentary introducing and explaining the main aims behind producing his work. El Jaouhari states that:

‘‘My Land Knows Me” is a re-writing of the film “The Lost Land” by the French director Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd. My film questions and deconstructs the biased position expressed by both Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s film and Spanish media that overlooks history and reality, and generates some wrong and false images regarding the conflict over Sahara. My documentary is based on the story of the freedom fighter Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, particularly the itinerary of his life since his abduction as a child from the city of es-Semara in 1979 by the Polisario Front and the Algerians with the assistance of Gadhafi. After being brain washed by the Polisario regime, Mustafa Salma started discovering the hidden truth after he visited his father in Morocco.”

”Indeed, Sheikh Isamili Salma corrected the misconceptions his son learnt in the Polisario camp and provided him with historical evidence that their tribe, Rguibat, which constituted 52% of the Sahrawi tribes, traces its ancestry to the Saint Abdel-Salam ben Msheesh who lived and died in the far North of Morocco, especially between the cities of Larache and Tetouan. Mawla Abdul Salam bin Msheeh is the grandson of Moulay Idriss, in turn, the founder of the first Islamic state in Morocco; he lived and died in Meknes in Northern Morocco as well.

So in contrast to ‘The Lost Land’, which depicts a lost land whose native inhabitants are struggling to regain, my film tries to correct this colonial transcendental view by rewriting the title to ‘My Land Knows Me’. It conveys what the European media hides and distorts. For instance, the film shows that many Polisario leaders are Algerians and Mauritanians. Mohamed el Bouhali is an Algerian who worked in the Algerian army; yet, he is Polisario’s minister of defense! Will the European media point out these ironies which are unprecedented in history?! My film’s main aim, then, is to question the transcendental and biased role that media plays.”

Those who have seen both films noticed that you have not rewritten only the title but stylistic and aesthetic aspects of the French film. How can you explain this?

In his film, Yves Vandeweed constructs the security zone established by Morocco as the wall that separates Sahrawis from their lands and families which urged me in my film to refer more than once to the crimes of the Polisario, particularly those of kidnapping, with the complicity of Algeria the and Spanish media. Through my film, I want to tell the viewers that the security belt came to stop these crimes that were extensively practiced during the seventies and eighties under the European media blackout.

So, I rewrote the film of Yves Vandeweed by giving a voice to the activist Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, to explicitly reveal many sensitive issues that were ignored by the Spanish and European media, such as the recruitment of children, the violations of human rights, and the involvement of Boumedienne and Gadhafi in these abuses. Through the story of Mustapha, I pointed out to the issue of freedom of expression within the camps; an issue raised by Mustapha was kidnapped and tortured due to his public support to the Moroccan resolution.

The movie ‘The Lost Land‘ separates the sound from the image, silencing its voice, as it does with the identity of the land through testimonies of people whose names are unknown, which leads us to question the credibility of the film’s content. We do not even see those people while speaking, which form an obstacle between the viewer and the theme. Such fallacy was justified by an aesthetic choice of the filmmaker, which he explained to European journalists. But, this approach was not robust and only resulted in forming a gap in the film. In my film, however, my main concern was to give voice to Mustapha Salma, producing an image to break all the barriers set up by the French filmmaker.

What are the main difficulties you faced while shooting your film?

First, I would like to mention that it was too difficult for me to enter Mauritania with my camera and professional equipment, so I had to use my mobile phone. Besides, I did not get the shooting license from the Moroccan Film Centre (CCM) on time. However, my mobile recording gave credibility and realism to the film, demystifying all the prejudices in the French film ’The Lost Land‘. Apart from some shots taken from Youtube, others were shot with a small 3ccd camera with the absence of lighting and sound equipment due to the refusal of Moroccan Cinema Center to fund my project about Mustapha Salma. These difficulties do categorize my film within the trend of “Imperfect Cinema”. It also has something to do with “Third Cinema,” which is characterized as works filmed with modest equipment and which tackle the marginalized themes.

Who are ‘My Land Knows Me’ interviewees?

My film traces the story of Mustapha Salma through interviews with Spanish, Polisario, and Moroccan interviewees. The points of view of Bouchraya Byoun, the Polisario representative in Spain and their former minister, the Spanish former minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, and the journalist Ignacio Samprero, (who is known for his articles supporting the Polisario stance) are all presented in the film to provide different and contradicted attitudes to the viewers. These interviews reveal the complicity of Spanish media and journalists as illustrated by Ignacio Samprero’s words.

Don’t you fear criticizing the Moroccan Film Center?

No, simply because the CCM has already stripped me of any support. This, by the way, made people in charge at the CCM think that I might stop working on my documentary, which definitely wasn’t the case. I can use my knowledge about cinema trends that struggle against the odds and use modest equipment and ways to depict reality. The proof is what’s now happening regarding the Arab Spring and how the mobile videos compensate the professional camera that requires permissions and expensive equipment.

Editing by Benjamin Villanti

© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved

Previous articleZambia beat Ivory Coast 8-7 in finals
Next articleSome Teachers are Also Cheaters