A documentary that tells the story of Moroccan detainees in a Polisario-run jail has won the Grand Prize at a Laayoune festival.
Rabat – A documentary titled “Vie Cotoyant la Mort” (Life rubbing shoulders with death) won a prize on Sunday, December 23, at the closing ceremony of Laayoune’s fourth Festival of Sahrawi-Hassani Culture, History and Environment.
The 90-minute film by Moroccan director Lahcen Majid follows the story of six Moroccans, five men and one woman, who recounted the suffering they experienced at the hands of Polisario separatists in the Tindouf camps in the Algerian desert, and how they managed to escape.
The documentary is based on testimonies from the six former detainees who say they were constantly afraid and tortured.
Giving voice to Tindouf abuse
Another film in the festival, titled “Bienvenue en enfer,” (Welcome to hell) by filmmaker Farid Regragui explores the dark struggles of Sahrawi and Moroccan detainees in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps were reportedly forced to perform hard labor and deprived of basic human rights. Failing to escape the Polisario in Tindouf because of Algeria’s preventing them from returning, the Sahrawi population has been living in misery for decades.
The pain of the detainees also touches their families. Some Sahrawis have reported that their family members went missing or were “abducted.”
The two films sought to expose Polisario’s abuses to the international community, to depict the victims’ suffering, and to “make their voices heard.”
Omar Khammar, the president of the Association of Moroccan Critics, said that although filming in the Sahara is not conducive to creating a great movie, a good filmmaker is “a cultured one.”
Khammar invites “young artists who strive to make films about the culture and history of the Sahara to start small” and watch short films first about the Sahara.
The festival was organized by the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM) in partnership with the prefecture of the Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra region and the audio-visual and cinema center in Laayoune in Morocco’s southern provinces.
Of 15 participating films, seven made it to the finals, including the grand prize winner.
Other featured screenings were: “Tales of Water and Sand” by Ali Tahiri, “Handicrafts in Morocco” by Kouider Bennani, “Echoes of the Sahara” by Rachid Kasmi, “The Pleasure of the World is in its Misery” by Malika Maalainine, and “The Prehistoric Sahara Man” by Rachid Zaki.