Western Sahara, Lost Land

News from West­ern Sahara is rarely cov­ered by the inter­na­tion­al media. Every April, since the peace accord in 1991, the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil man­date for orga­niz­ing a ref­er­en­dum to decide the future of West­ern Sahara is extend­ed for anoth­er year. But noth­ing ever hap­pens. The ref­er­en­dum is sab­o­taged by Moroc­co, over and over again. Moroc­co still con­trols two-thirds of the west­ern part of the coun­try, where the impor­tant phos­phate deposits are locat­ed, while the Polis­ario Front con­trols the less eco­nom­i­cal­ly impor­tant inte­ri­or. Rough­ly 180,000 refugees – the major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion – live in camps in south­ern Alge­ria, where they con­tin­ue to depend on relief sup­plied by the EU, the UN, and var­i­ous NGOs since their escape in 1976. There is no solu­tion in sight.

Lost Land
(Territoire perdu)

Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd
Belgium, France 2011 | 75 Min. | OmeU

The West­ern Sahara is divid­ed: Since 1989, a 2.400 km long wall of sand has sep­a­rat­ed the area occu­pied by Moroc­co from that which is con­trolled by the Polis­ario Front, a nation­al lib­er­a­tion move­ment fight­ing for an inde­pen­dent state. Over a hun­dred thou­sand Sahrawi are living in exile in refugee camps in the Alger­ian desert – once nomads, now con­demned to immobility.

The sit­u­a­tion and unre­solved fate of the Sahrawi refugees have been for­got­ten by the world. TERRITOIRE PERDU brings them quite lit­er­al­ly back to light. Shot in Super8 and in black-and-white, the film works con­scious­ly with the con­trast between light and shadow – mod­el­ling the bodies of Sahrawi, as it were. Faces, skin, wrin­kles, scarves, cloth, sun­glass­es and the pat­terns of the sol­diers’ uni­forms coa­lesce on the visual level into grainy tex­tures. From off camera, one hears frag­ments of life sto­ries: about flight and per­se­cu­tion, about life in the camps, about Morocco’s repres­sion, the long­ing for one’s own land, the rela­tion­ship to the desert, grief over rel­a­tives who have dis­ap­peared, and resis­tance. The pow­er­ful wind is omnipresent, and the sound design ampli­fies the vast­ness of the space. A remark­able cin­e­mato­graph­ic form for a polit­i­cal topic.


Pedro Pérez Rosado
Spain, Western Sahara 2011 | 88 Min. | OmU
Q&A with:
Pedro Pérez Rosado
Fatime­tu is born to a Sahrawi family in a Saha­ran refugee camp in Alge­ria and later sent to live with foster par­ents in Spain. After the death of her mother … read more