May 2015 we visited the FiSahara filmfestival in Dahkla refugeecamp in the South Western Sahara, officially Algeria, a very remote area depending on humanitarian help for over 40 years now. Once a year FiSahara organizes a filmfestival in Dahkla. However the other 4 refugee camps nearby do not have access to the festival or the films. In collaboration with the local filmschool, The Abidin Kaid Saleh audiovisual school, and FiSahara we developed Solar Cinema Western Sahara. A custom made Landcruiser, adapted to local circumstances. Cinema is still young amongst Saharaui people, although it can strengthen their voice and development. Film is a tool for self-expression and reflection: a form of cultural resistance and in this case an important part of human rights activism. In addition film obviously has entertainment value, which is of great importance considering the harsh living conditions in this area. With Solar Cinema Western Sahara, cinema is available all year round and in the whole Saharaui area. In the area live approximately 160.000 refugees. During the FiSahara 2016 edition the Solar Cinema Western Sahara was officially launched.
The Western Sahara’s almost four-decade conflict is also one of the world’s most invisible crises. The territory lies between Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Morocco and Mauritania occupied the Western Sahara in 1975 when Spain, the former colonial power, reached an agreement allowing their invasion to go forward. Thousands of Saharauis, the people who originally lived here, including many women and children, fled from the repression that followed and crossed into Algeria. Here they were allowed to settle near the town of Tinduf. Access to basic services such as drinking water, electricity and food is scarce. Basic life in this remote, isolated corner of the desert cannot be sustained in this environment, and the camps are completely dependent on foreign humanitarian aid. The population of 160.000 people has very little access to culture, leisure and entertainment and suffers from the extreme social and geographic isolation.