A small glimpse on the big screen of the life of the Saharawis

The power of film to put us in the shoes of people whose lives are so different from our own has always been an effective way of raising support for worthy yet little known causes. Two films portraying the experiences of both the children and women of Western Sahara will be screening at ACMI in Melbourne next month. They give us the opportunity to understand what the dispossessed Saharawis are suffering.

An evening of films about Western Sahara (former Spanish Sahara) at ACMI is presented by Melbourne Filmoteca:
Latin American, Spanish & Portuguese Film Group and the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA).
Tuesday 7th October, 7.30pm
Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne

There will be an introduction by Lyn Allison (formerly a Democrat Senator for Victoria). She visited the Saharawi refugee camps, has raised questions in parliament about their plight and is now president of the Australia Western Sahara Association.
From the late-1880s until the mid-1970s Spain laid claim to Western Sahara in North West Africa naming it Spanish Sahara (Sahara Español). Saharawi resistance to Spanish colonial rule was strong. In May 1973 the Saharawi liberation movement the POLISARIO Front (Frente Popular la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro) was formed and Spain moved towards holding a referendum of self-determination in keeping with United Nations practice for decolonization. Before this took place the two neighbouring African countries invaded and a war ensued. On 27 February 1976 the Saharawi Republic was declared and POLISARIO formed a government-in-exile. It represents the Saharawi people in UN negotiations with Morocco (the occupying power) to resolve the sovereignty of Western Sahara.

The films show how the Saharawis are continuing to build their movement for self-determination partly through education. However, their tragic predicament is still a harsh daily reality.

LaLia Dir Sylvia Munt, Spain 1999, 12 min (Spanish)
“If you close your eyes you can see anything”. This award winning short film is told through the voice of a Saharawi girl named Lalia who has never seen her homeland. She imagines what it will be like when she can return and discover it for herself.

Cubarawi Women
Dir Antonio Marquez, Spain 2006, 58 min (Spanish & Arabic with English subtitles)
Every year Saharawi students living in refugee camps in southwest Algeria go to Cuba to study from secondary to university level. It is a formative experience for them living in a very different environment both physically and culturally. The film follows women training in Cuba and talks to others who have returned to the camps. This film discusses the role of women in a Muslim Arabic society and shows the Saharawi women to be proud to take a leading role.

Q&A session
Q&A and discussion afterwards with Lyn Allison and other AWSA members. This will be an opportunity to discuss the films and also the strong links between the Saharawis and the Spanish people that exist today.

ACMI – Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne
Tickets: $13, $10 (concession)
on sale at ACMI Box office: 8663 2583
or online at http://www.acmi.net.au/tickets
Download the film night pamphlet below:
·  Download the film night pamphlet (PDF)