The film school
Film is a powerful means to convey a story, educate or mobilize around an issue. For refugees, the ability to make films about their lives and the challenges they face is an empowering experience, a chance to tell their stories in their own words.
The Abidin Kaid Saleh Audiovisual School opened for classes in 2011 with a main mission: to train young Sahrawi refugees in film and video production so that they can portray their lives, address critical issues and empower their communities.
The school was built in 2010 with the support of Spanish filmmakers who identified the need among young Sahrawi refugees for year-round media training. It is located in the 27th of February camp and provides full board so that students from all the camps can attend throughout the year.
Sahrawi women make up about 85% of the school's student body. This makeup reflects women's key role in Sahrawi society: women and girls built the refugee camps and continue to play a critical role in Sahrawi life, occupying leadership positions in Sahrawi politics, health, education and culture.
What the school does
Young Sahrawis have few employment opportunities in the refugee camps. Many study high school and university abroad and return to a life of unemployment and underemployment.
The audiovisual school offers these young people media training and skills that enable them to create powerful communication tools to improve their lives and their communities. The skills learned help them to find employment in the camps' TV and radio stations.
Many students use first-hand experiences and autobiographical portraits to address issues such as:
- Sahrawi oral history and cultural traditions
- Social, economic and cultural challenges of refugee life
- Identity issues (gender, generational, cultural, etc.)
- Gender equality
- Health-related issues
The school's methodology
The school offers a one-year program and provides room and board for its students. Film instructors visit the school to teach filmmaking modules; most come from Spain or Venezuela. They include directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, editors, sound technicians, lighting specialists and other filmmaking professionals.
The curriculum is broken down into 10 three-week modules for a total of 1.000 hours of instruction. It introduces students to a wide variety of media and filmmaking tools and provides hands-on training in each of the specialties. The students make several short films throughout the year.
- Students are introduced to audiovisual tools and learn how to use them to tell their stories.
- Instructors take students through the entire filmmaking process: from research and scriptwriting to post-production.
- Students have the opportunity to show their films to the community and beyond, including screenings at the film festival.
- Graduates of the school develop skills that enable them to work in the Sahrawi cable TV and radio stations or in the film school as teaching assistants.
The school operates with a mix of private and public funding. Its 2012 budget is €35.000. Supporters include:
- The Spanish Agency for International Development (AECID)
- The Yakari Foundation (Venezuela)
- The Spanish Institute for Film and Visual Arts (ICAA) / Spanish Ministry of Culture
- The city of Alava (Spain)
- Spanish Network of Organizations in Solidarity with the Western Sahara (CEAS)
- Various private donations
The school is developing a scholarship program with the Cuban film school in San Antonio de los Baños.
Link to the school (Spanish-language only): www.escueladecinedelsahara.org