Ouardiri wants her film to remind audiences that refugees and displaced peoples are living in dire conditions.
“Clebs,” a short film by Moroccan-Canadian filmmaker Halima Ouardiri featuring Morocco’s largest animal sanctuary, won the jury prize at the International Francophone Film Festival (FIFF) in Namur, Belgium.
FIFF, which runs from October 2-9, announced the short film winners on Monday.
Moroccan filmmaker Said Hamich also won at FIFF, earning the director’s prize and best photography for his film “Le Depart.” Set in 2004 Morocco, “Le Depart” follows 11-year-old Adil, who idolizes the Olympic runner Hicham El Guerrouj.
“Clebs,” meanwhile, won the international jury favorite for short films and the Marion-Hansel Prize.
The documentary features Le Coeur Sur La Patte (CSP) and Sunshine Animal Refuge Agadir (SARA), a Moroccan animal welfare organization and its satellite sanctuary, both founded by Michele Augsburger.
SARA has three locations outside the coastal city of Agadir where it cares for around 1,100 animals, including dogs, cats, donkeys, and birds. CSP works to neuter and vaccinate the stray dog population in the city of Agadir and has done so for over 1,400 dogs so far.
Ouardiri’s film draws parallels between the dogs at SARA anxiously awaiting adoption and the millions of refugees worldwide who are searching for shelter and security.
“Clebs” has quickly earned international recognition. The film featured in Brazil’s 31st Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival from August 20 to 30, alongside three other Moroccan works.
In February, the short documentary clinched Best Short Film — also known as the Crystal Bear — at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and the Special Prize of the International Jury.
The film offers a “glimpse of a world we’ve never seen before,” the festival’s jury said while announcing the awards.
“It’s a pretty strong comparison that I’m making, but it is even worse in reality in terms of how they [refugees] are living now,” Ouardiri said to Telefilm Canada. “It’s in my mind very often.”
With “Clebs,” Ouardiri wants to “remind people that human beings are living under the worst conditions right now,” she said after her short film’s success at Berlinale.