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Western Sahara International Film Festival (FiSahara)

29/4 to 4/5 in saharawi refugee camps

About the project

FiSahara, or the Western Sahara International Film Festival, is a unique human rights film and culture festival celebrated in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the heart of the Sahara Desert, in Southwestern Algeria. We use film to empower and entertain refugees from the Western Sahara, who are into their 38th year of exile from their land, under military occupation by Morocco. FiSahara also helps to raise international awareness on the Western Sahara conflict.


This April 29-May 4 FiSahara will light up its Desert Screen in the Dakhla Refugee camp. Thousands of Sahrawis and hundreds of international visitors attend this festival, the single most important annual event in the refugee camps.

Our giant outdoor movie theater will screen Oscar-nominated documentariesThe Square and Dirty Wars; the critically acclaimed fictions When I Saw You and Ismael; as well as The Scarecrow, Palestine's first animated 3-D movie and many other films that entertain, inform and inspire.

As it does each year, FiSahara will showcase films about the Western Sahara, some made by Sahrawi refugees themselves, including students from FiSahara's Abidin Kaid Saleh film school.

We will offer our popularaudiovisual workshops that give young refugees the tools they need to tell their own stories through film. This year FiSahara has planned a video workshop for human rights defenders, as well as trainings for Sahrawi women to make short films with mobile phones. We will also offer youth-oriented workshops, including the making of a rap video and the development of an interactive videogame on forced displacement.

  This year FiSahara will dedicate a special section to Nelson Mandela, including film screenings and a roundtable on Mandela's legacy and on his struggle against racism and for decolonization, which included the Western Sahara.

  The festival also offers many other activities including traditional Sahrawi cultural fair, camel races, concerts, sporting events and visits to camp installations.

  Our impact is significant. A week of film and entertainment provide psychological relief to the population from the harshness of camp life, particularly for children and youth, who have known no other life. Thanks to international media and filmmakers attending, the festival helps Sahrawis raise international awareness about their plight, into its 38th year. In the words of a young refugee, "Thanks to the festival we know that we are not alone." 

What are the funds for?

FiSahara needs your help. FiSahara does a lot with very little, and our large team is mostly composed of volunteers. With the financial crisis the festival lost most of its funding, which came from Spanish government grants. Because of these cuts, FiSahara was forced to suspend its workshops in 2012, a devastating loss to the refugees, who desperately need audiovisual training in order to produce films and videos about their lives, and in order to document their struggle and preserve their cultural identity.

FiSahara has been able to build new international partnerships and obtain support from foundations, partner festivals and a small city grant, but this year we are still short of our target funding.

The funds obtained through crowdsourcing will allow us to offer improved programming for youth and children. It will also help us pay for the audiovisual workshops and send instructors to FiSahara's year-round film school.

By contributing to FiSahara you will help finance:

  • Travel to the camp and expenses for Pallasos en Rebeldía, a volunteer group of clowns specializing in kids' entertainment in conflict areas. Combining magic acts, acrobacy and clowning with film screenings, they will perform throughout the festival, visit six primary schools and tour throughout the camp.

  • A workshop for women that will teach them how to make short films with their mobile phones, enabling them to produces videos on issues critical to their communities. Expenses include travel for instructor and materials for the workshop.

  • FiSahara's emblematic human rights audiovisual workshop for Sahrawi human rights defenders that will employ the Witness methodology and bring experienced audiovisual activists and filmmakers to teach in the refugee camps. Funding will enable us to send instructors from Egypt's Mosireen Collective and Zimbabwe's Lawyers for Human Rights and pay for Arabic-language software and small video cameras needed for the workshop.

  • Youth workshops combining rap and videogame production. Expenses include basic workshop materials and travel for four international artists to teach these sessions that will give Sahrawi youth new creative outlets for self-expression.

  • Travel expenses to the camps for filmmakers whose films are screening this year at FiSahara so they can give talks and participate in roundtables about human rights filmmaking. The presence of these filmmakers is critical for knowledge-sharing and so that they can share their experience in the refugee camps with the outside world. These filmmakers will accompany films like The Square, Dirty Wars, When I Saw You and The World not Ours.

  • Travel expenses and stipends of film instructors who travel to the refugee camps to teach at the Abidin kaid Saleh film school. Last year the school graduated 18 students, some of whom will be part of the first generation of Sahrawi filmmakers. We aim to send three instructors in the first six months of 2014.

  • Basic necessities in the Dakhla refugee camp such as drinking water, food, fuel for vehicles and generators (the camp lacks electricity), small salaries for local camp workers and lodging for film school students and workshop beneficiaries attending from other refugee camps.

About the project owner


Created in 2003, FiSahara is a joint initiative conceived by the Sahrawi refugee community, the Spanish solidarity movement and Spanish filmmakers. It has since become an international collaborative effort, drawing partners, volunteers and participants from many countries.

FiSahara has brought film and filmmaking to the Sahrawi refugee community, introducing it as a tool for entertainment, empowerment and social change. Since its creation, hundreds of films have screened, dozens of young people have trained at the audiovisual workshops and countless projects and collaborations have been generated between participants and Sahrawis.

Sahrawis are struggling to preserve their cultural identity, a key to their survival as a people. FiSahara provides audiovisual tools to help preserve and showcase Sahrawi identity, allowing Sahrawis to make films about their own reality and screen them to a local and international audience.

Film also serves as a tool to connect the Sahrawi people with movements for social change, from human rights groups to organizations working on gender equality, health, education and many other important issues.

FiSahara is not just about film. The festival aims to draw international attention to the plight of the Sahrawis or indigenous peoples of the Western Sahara, half of whom live as refugees in Algeria and the other half under a brutal Moroccan occupation. Since 1991 when the United Nations promised a referendum on self-determination in 1991, Sahrawi people are waiting for justice. Key international players such as the United States, France and Spain (the former colonial power) have stalled on finding a solution to the conflict.

A strategic aspect of FiSahara is attracting international visitors, a lifeline for Sahrawis, who live in isolation due to the remoteness of the camps and the indifference of the international community towards their plight. The festival has hosted numerous filmmakers such as Javier Bardem and Guy Davidi (5 Broken Cameras), as well as writers like Eduardo Galeano and many others.

Anyone wanting to attend the festival can register via FiSahara's website and travel to the camps on the festival's charter flight from Madrid. Visitors stay with local Sahrawi families in their traditional desert tents or haimas and experience one week of Sahrawi hospitality and culture.

FiSahara also celebrates Sahrawi culture and identity with a large fair that showcases Sahrawi music, dance, food, storytelling and many other traditions under threat from occupation and exile. FiSahara offers concerts, camel races, an international soccer match between locals and visitors, visits to camp installations and many other activities.

The festival has become the most important event for the Sahrawi refugees, drawing entire families, young people and many others to its many activities.

To learn more, please visit our website or Facebook page.


FiSahara is a project of CEAS-Sahara, a non-profit solidarity NGO based in Madrid, Spain. CEAS-Sahara, which has associations throughout Spain, carries out projects in the refugee camps, including humanitarian caravans and development aid projects.

FiSahara's implementing partner is the Ministry of Culture of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the Sahrawi government-in-exile that manages the refugee camps.

 Our partners and funders include:

• Dimes Foundation

• Bertha Foundation

• Movies that Matter (Amnesty International-Netherlands)

• AISGE Foundation

• City of Gavà's human rights film festival

• Cultures of Resistance

• Human Rights Film Network

• San Sebastián Human Rights Film Festival

• Pallasos en Rebeldía

• National Union of Sahrawi women

• Mosireen Collective


• Girl Rising Campaign

• El Deseo Productions





Javier Bardem at FiSahara):

Señor G: Short film by Sahrawi children made at FiSahara:

FiSahara Youtube channel:

More information

You can contact our team if you need more information or wish to participate in or collaborate with FiSahara:

• E-mail: [email protected]

• Phone: (+34) 91 532 11 80