Around 150 members of the British film industry gathered last week for the London launch of the 8th International Sahara Film Festival, the world’s remotest film festival. The event, held in 33 Portland Place – a key location for the Oscar-winning King’s Speech – saw a host of actors, directors and film industry insiders come together to find out more about the festival which takes place in May in a refugee camp in the desert.
The Sahara International Film Festival, known as FiSahara, will run from 2 to 8 May in south-western Algeria. Each year the desolate refugee camp located over 100 miles from the nearest town is transformed into a gala of screenings, workshops and concerts attended by an array of internationally acclaimed actors and film-makers.
This year, festival organizers are expecting around 300 international participants. At the launch, members of the British film community were invited to sign-up. Previous years have seen stars such as Javier Bardem attending and a number of ‘big name’ international actors have already confirmed for this year’s event.
The festival aims not only to entertain the international participants but also offers educational opportunities to the estimated 165,000 Saharawi refugees from Western Sahara living in the camps. The festival also aims to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis that has been playing out in Western Sahara and the refugee camps for more than three decades.
Award-winning Spanish film director Guillem Morales was at the event as was Sarah Olsson from Hackney, whose documentary Rabab will premiere at this year’s festival. ‘I’m honoured that my film will be shown at this fantastic film festival,’ she said. ‘I hope the attendance of film-makers, directors, producers, actors and journalists will help to raise awareness of the situation in Africa’s last colony.’
Film director Ken Loach, who has had three of his films shown at the film festival in the past, was unable to attend the launch but sent a message of support saying: ‘I would encourage everyone to attend this film festival once in their lives.’
Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist and UK coordinator of FiSahara 2011.
For more information about the festival please visit FiSahara. Report from the 2009 Festival is here.