In a stunning and dynamic black and white picture, Belgian documentarist Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd lets us journey to the Western Sahara where the Sahrawi people have been in exile since 1975. LOST LAND is an elegy to the countless lives lost in the genocide perpetrated against the Sahrawi people by Morocco.
Voiced over scenes of ruin and hopelessness, we hear firsthand accounts of the destruction these refugees remember.
Open City Documentary Festival: Top Quality Black and White
The documentary is in a grainy black and white. The bright sunlight common of a desert environment, such as the Western Sahara, makes finite lines between the gradient coloring of the film. The white in certain shots is stark and blinding, while the black is deep and empty. This trick of the camera erases all trace of time and space, leaving the subjects in a nowhere place. We are left as ungrounded as the survivors we follow. We know this is not home.
The silence between firsthand accounts is filled with a haunting and beautiful score, furthering our sense of displacement. There is radio static and jazzy radio recorded singing intermittent in the sorrowful orchestral film score. It’s as though we are waiting to hear the end of the war announced, or waiting for the names of the dead and missing.
What’s Good for Camels
Like in his other documentaries, Vandeweerd latches on to some overarching metaphor to carry the message of the film. The camel, an important animal to Saharan economy, suffices for this film. He begins with a story of Ancient Greek Philosopher Herodotus, who became enamored with the camel. He is recorded to have said “What is good for a camel is probably good for man.” We soon come to see that this is not the case.
A great documentary for those interested in Middle Eastern history, genocide history, ethics, and humanitarianism, this film unveils a heinous atrocity the world seems to have forgotten.
Although this film is a beautiful and pertinent presentation of a humanitarian crisis, it is the most graphic of the Vandeweerd films featured in the Open City Documentary Festival. The stories you will hear are traumatic and real. Many of them come from women who were captured and tortured by Moroccan police.
September 7, 2017 at 8:30 BST
Piccadilly, London W1D 7DH, United Kingdom
*Note this film is in Arabic with English subtitles
Photos courtesy of Open City Documentary Festival