The documentary focuses on the Imider community’s fight against exploitation by the local silver mine.
The documentary film “Amussu” about protests in Imider, a village in south-east Morocco against exploitative action from a local mining company, has been chosen for premiere at the Hot Docs International Festival in Toronto, Canada, which runs from April 25 to May 6. The film is scheduled to premiere on April 29 with at least two more showings on April 30 and May 4.
If the film wins best international documentary at the festival, it will be eligible for the Oscars.
For Moroccan director Nadir Bouhmouch, “Amussu’s” selection proves that “African cinema does not need large means, does not need French producers, nor their sophisticated equipment, nor hierarchical production structures” to make an impact.
Bouhmouch, a 28-year-old based in Marrakech, works as a filmmaker, photographer, researcher, and writer. His work focuses on indigenous land rights and environmental issues in Morocco’s marginalized interior regions.
Bouhmouch created the film in collaboration with the Imider community. The “Movement On the Road ‘96” acted as the producers and the Local Film Committee of Imider worked with Bouhmouch to write the screenplay. Movement on the Road ’96 was founded in August 2011 as a grassroots socio-environmental movement and is largely responsible for organizing the Imider protests.
The Local Film Committee of Imider is a film collective made up of local volunteer artists, peasants, workers, shepherds, unemployed youth, and film technicians. The committee acts as the audiovisual arm for the Movement on Road the ’96. It seeks to promote cultural production and innovation, preserve local culture and popular memory, defend Imider from environmental degradation, and encourage social change.
In addition to creating films, the group has archived hundreds of hours of poems, plays, songs, traditional chants, and oral stories. They have also organized two film festivals, dozens of individual film screenings, and workshops for children, unemployed youth, and women.
Protests against exploitation
Imider, a village in south-east Morocco, is the location of the biggest silver mine in Africa. Despite promises from the mine’s parent company Managem that the mine would bring economic growth and employment to the community, Imider remains one of the poorest regions in Morocco. The local people feel that they have faced abusive exploitation by the mine owners. They say that the fight against the mine is about “the right to water, land, and decent life.”
The villagers peacefully rebelled in 2011, shutting down a major water pipeline that leads to the mine. They still occupy the land around the pipeline today and have kept the valve to one of the mine’s biggest wells shut for eight years. What was once a makeshift protest camp has essentially become a small solar-powered village.
The pipeline to the mine had been using the village’s groundwater, drying out crops and creating serious agricultural problems. According to a report by the Global Amazigh Congress in September 2015, the mine uses 1,555 cubic meters of water every day. The figure is 12 times the village’s daily water consumption. Since the water source has been cut off, the mine’s capacity has dropped between 30 and 40 percent.
The protestors want to end the mine’s exploitation of the village and its water as well as push the government to provide jobs to residents and establish a local school and hospital.
Bouhmouch’s film follows the protestors and villagers in their continued efforts beginning in 2016, five years after the protests first began. Dozens of villagers have been arrested in those five years.
The film’s creators describe it as “a form of resistance in itself.”