Casablanca- “The Identity of a Front” is a documentary that most prominently reveals Algeria’s involvement in the Western Sahara issue. The film started as an attempt to discover the roots of the conflict and, upon evidence gathered, turned into an unvarnished indictment of Morocco’s neighboring country and the role Algeria has played since the establishment of the so-called Polisario Front.
Hassan Bouharrouti’s documentary film was screened in Brussels on Monday evening on the occasion of Morocco’s celebration of Independence Day, and followed by an open discussion.
The documentary depicts Algeria’s manipulation of the Polisario Front, which was initially created by Sahrawi students to fight against the Spanish occupation of the Western Sahara. The Algerian exploitation was meant to weaken Morocco and ultimately serve Algeria’s interest and designs toward hegemony in the region.
The film director pointed out the widespread ignorance regarding the underlying reality of the Western Sahara dispute:
Many people seem to have ignored the fact that the Polisario Front grew out of struggle against Spanish colonization of the South of Morocco, and in the wake of the national liberation movement.
During 90 minutes, the film digs into the history of the conflict by using authentic images from the archives of the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) in addition to reports of personal harrowing accounts by founding members of the Polisario, including intellectuals, as well as known Moroccan opposition members at the time.
“Witnesses of history,” depicted in the film, said they were disconcerted that the movement underwent radical change, backed by Algerian officials. The witnesses are interested in dissecting the social relations and tribal nature of the Sahrawi society in order to reject the validity of the term “people of Western Sahara,” and consequently rebuff the so-called leadership of the Polisario that claims to represent and defend the Sahrawi people.
The testimony also shed light on maneuvers plotted in Algeria against the territorial integrity of the kingdom, providing insight into the geopolitical and geostrategic context of the time surrounding the emergence of the conflict. The film is a bid to return to the roots of the conflict to better understand the essence, ideology, and the nature of the support that lies behind the separatist movement.
The documentary goes even further to uncover abuse of human rights against Sahrawi refugees detained in Tindouf camps, in South-West Algeria, presenting heretofore unpublished images that reveal open air prisons that seem other worldly in their deplorable conditions.
The director gathered shocking testimony describing the hell that awaited Saharawi children deported to Cuba, where they were forced to work in inhumane conditions or undergo military training for adults. In this regard, a former Cuban secret agent describes some of the punishments meted out to children who once believed that they were on their way to enjoy their holidays under the Cuban sun.
Portraying testimony from both sides, the documentary deconstructs the Algerian version of the conflict, concluding that it is shocking that the Algerian regime maintains an obsolete stance and blocks any initiative to end the suffering of “detained Saharawi refugees.”
The documentary film will be screened in December in Tangiers and several European cities.
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