Around 150 members of the British film industry gathered on Wednesday evening 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. Among the guests were film-directors Guillem Morales and Sara Olsson whose films will be among the 30 movies on this year’s festival programme.
The Sahara International Film Festival – known as FiSahara – will run from 2nd to 8th 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.
Festival organisers are this year expecting around 300 international participants and 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 years 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 says. “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. The festival is gaining renown, helped by the support of film people like Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz. This event will help the British Film Industry to find out more about this remarkable event and I hope that they will get involved.”
The event was made possible through the kind generosity of Lord Edward Davenport, Frederick Porter of 33 Portland Place with the assitance of David Broder.