In the hot days that have prevailed lately, a Central European will hardly believe that anyone could consider the desert a convenient place to live; let alone a homeland one should fight or even die for. In the dunes of the Sahara desert, Belgian director Pierre Yves Vandeweerd discovered a nation forgotten by the world and dedicated his latest film to its troubled fate. You can watch the bewitching documentary Lost Land at Dafilms from July 16.
Morocco’s “wall of shame” stretches like a deep furrow along the West coast of Saharan Africa. Since the 1980s, the bulwark which is more than two thousand kilometres long has been dividing the desert landscape of Western Sahara into two parts; the one “in front” of the wall controlled by Morocco and the one “behind” it controlled by rebels from among the Sahrawi people, a specific African ethnic group, which has been struggling for more than a hundred years for their right of self-determination and independence. Unlike other similarly infamous constructions, such as the Berlin wall in the past, the Moroccan wall is little known and little discussed in the Western world; perhaps because one can hardly imagine that anyone would really desire such a piece of desolate wasteland. Yet this place where even camels are thirsty has become a scene of yet another cruel and desperately endless African conflict.
Belgian Pierre Yves Vandeweerd has been turning his camera on Africa for quite some time. He has dedicated most of his documentary films to this continent. His latest African trip has taken him to the inhospitable inland of Western Sahara among Sahrawi refugees and rebels. The director’s film depiction of their tough life is exceptionally impressive. The grainy black-and-white images seem as parched and bleak as the Sahara desert which has become the fate of the relentless nation. The sand seems to have covered everything man can lay his eyes on, having even penetrated under the lids of the spectators who are safe from the inclemency of the desert in their homes. While the film is tempting the spectators’ eyes, it is also teasing their ears. Vandeweerd filled his Saharan documentary with an enchanting mosaic of both real and imaginary sounds of the desert. Although one does not speak much in the documentary, there is not much silence either. The omnipresent screeching of sand, the melancholy whiz of the wind, the disturbing camel “song”; beyond that, voices of protagonists situated outside the scene are heard now and then. With great strength, witness accounts of the harsh life behind the Moroccan wall fall upon the spectators; a life the difficulty and severity of which is balanced by the most important value of any human community; freedom.
“My grandfather taught me to understand the desert”; says a nameless Sahrawi nomad; “he taught me the art of silence. To listen; not only to people but also to animals, stones and the wind.” As if the Belgian director tried to pass some of this wisdom through his work to us. One has to be quiet and attentive to watch his film; one has to listen silently to an old desert nation which prefers a slow death in the endless dunes of the Sahara to a life in oppression. You can watch the documentary Lost Land here.
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