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Viggo Mortensen and Oona Chaplin to attend film festival in desert refugee camp

30 March 2015

Film stars Viggo Mortensen, Oona Chaplin and Ariadna Gil will be among hundreds of actors, directors and international visitors who will join thousands of refugees for the 12th edition of the world’s most remote film festival. Held in the Sahrawi refugee camps deep in the desert, the Western Sahara International Film Festival - known as FiSahara – will run from April 28 to May 3 and boast a world class line-up of cinema and big name bands.

In addition there will be numerous workshops, debates and roundtable discussions exploring this year’s theme of Universal Justice led by global human rights figures such as Nora de Cortiñas, president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo of Argentina.

De Cortiñas will present the award-winning film about the struggle to discover the fate of “disappeared” grandchildren in Argentina, The Life of Estela whilst “Lord of the Rings” actor, Mortensen, will screen his new film, Loin des Hommes (Far From Men) set during the Algerian war.

Other highlights of the film programme include Oscar-winning Timbuktu, acclaimed Lebanese comedy Ghadi, the Bedouin road movie, Theeb and the award-winning Granito: How to Catch a Dictator which will be presented by its director Pamela Yates.

Films are projected at night onto huge outdoor screens beneath the stars. As well as international features, documentaries, animations and short films, the festival will also screen a range of films made by the refugees themselves in the film school set-up in 2011 as part of the Cinema for the Saharawi People project. The best of these Saharawi films will be selected to be screened as part of the Raindance Film Festival in London later this year.

At its heart FiSahara is a human rights film festival which aims to raise awareness of the plight the refugees from Western Sahara who this year mark 40 years of living in the camps. The festival, part of the Human Rights Film Network and whose partners include Movies that Matter, WITNESS and Raindance, not only offers entertainment and educational opportunities for the refugees but serves to remind them that they have not been forgotten. This year’s festival will also coincide with an important vote on Western Sahara at the United Nations Security Council.

Javier Bardem, whose visit to FiSahara inspired him to make an award-winning documentary about the situation of the people of Western Sahara, described the film festival as “little short of a miracle". Speaking in London earlier this year, film director Pedro Almodovar said “It’s very important for the Saharawi refugees to see films from around the world. To support them is not a question of humanitarianism. It’s about humanity, about having heart.”

Maria Carrion, FiSahara’s Executive Director said “Taking place just before Cannes, FiSahara is an international film festival like no other. Nowhere else on earth can you watch films under the stars, see world class musicians, enjoy Sahrawi cultural traditions such as camel races and participate in roundtables by human rights experts. We are delighted to be joined by great filmmakers and actors such as Viggo Mortensen, Oona Chaplin, Pamela Yates and Ariadna Gil and we look forward to seeing everyone with a passion for films, filmmaking and social justice in the desert."

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FESTIVAL DATES - 28th April – 3rd May 2015


Festival guests and visitors will fly from Madrid to Tindouf, Algeria, on a festival-chartered flight and travel over 100 miles in convoy into the desert to Dakhla refugee camp, home to around 30,000 refugees. They will stay with refugee families, living in their stucco and tented homes and enjoying the unique Saharawi hospitality. Film screenings will take place after sundown, projected onto multiplex-sized screens under the stars.

The trip costs 700 Euros (including flights/accommodation/food/ground transport/etc). The flight leaves Madrid on the morning of Tuesday 28th April and returns late on Saturday 3rd May. Press trips are available.


FiSahara 2015 offers several workshops including: Nahla Mohaker, Sudanese filmmaker from WITNESS, will offer human rights video advocacy training. Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis, documentary filmmakers specializing in human rights, will do a Mastersclass on the social impact of cinema. Javier Allegue will offer a workshop for Saharawi women wishing to train in new technologies. The Saharawi rapper Yslem's Music Workshop will focus on creating a piece of hip-hop for the festival. The Collective Zaytoungang from the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk (Syria) will conduct a videogame workshop focused on displacement for children. Susana Albarran from AMARC will teach on Radio and Human Rights.

A large contingent of films, filmmakers, poets and musicians from South Africa will also be announced soon.