In a few hours, a refugee from Western Sahara will be victim of an offence of her dignity at the Norwegian Short Film Festival. At 2 PM today, a film will be screened, in which she is portrayed to be a slave – something which she not is. Press release, 17 June 2010.
“Never have I seen such manipulation of film material. This is a propaganda movie one could expect to see from North Korea”, said Jon Jerstad, Norwegian film maker, and former president of Norwegian Film Director's Guild and ex-leader of the Norwegian public film institution Film Development.
The Australian documentary film Stolen portrays the Saharawi refugee Fetim Salam Hamdi as a slave – without her being it.
Tuesday this week, Fetim took the Norwegian Short Film Festival to court, demanding that the film be stopped through an injunction. Witnesses will go before the court on Friday. The film is planned shown both today and on Saturday 19th.
“The allegations about Fetim and the Saharawis are lies and distortion, from the start till the end. The Norwegian Short Film Festival must have been fooled to accept this film in the first place”, stated Jerstad, who himself has been to the refugee camps, and has gone through the real content of the film’s soundtrack, together with an interpreter, scene by scene.
Almost all the scenes in which the main character Fetim is shown, have been deliberately subtitled erroneously. On only 2 occasions in the film, one is given the impression that Fetim is ordered to carry out work, but in both cases the subtitles are pure fantasy. Fetim has presented proof before a court in Oslo that there are erroneous presentations of her as a slave.
“It is an offence to Fetim to be presented as a slave. The proofs clearly document that there is clear manipulation in the film material, and it is sad that the Short Film Festival does not show consideration for her by stopping today’s screening”, stated Fetim’s attorney, Andreas Galtung.
When the film had premiere in Australia last year, also translators from Al Jazeera, working for Australian TV, reacted to the insane English subtitles of the Arabic dialect used in the refugee camps. A certified translator that the film makers claim to have used, has himself heavily criticised the subtitles, and has stated that his corrections have not been used in the film.
In one of the central scenes, Fetim’s own sister and mother said ”It is not true” and ”she [Fetim] was not kidnapped”, to the questions from the film maker whether the main character was stolen as a child. But in the subtitles from the same scene, the women are quoted that Fetim was kidnapped and is controlled by the woman portrayed as a slave owner. Not even one of the interviews in the movie support the claims from the film makers that Fetim has been “Stolen”.
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara can help journalists establish contact with Fetim herself. She is the mother of four children, and a kinder garden teacher in the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria.
”The worst thing, is that the lies do not only affect Fetim and her family, but also stigmatizing the entire people. The Saharawi people have gone through extreme ordeals, and it is sad that when they finally get some attention, it is based on a scam. The short film festival has an ethical responsibility, and it is a scandal that they knowingly accept giving legitimacy to a propaganda movie”, stated Jørn Sund-Henriksen, chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
The disrespectful treatment of Fetim by the film is only of the many critique-worthy aspects of the film. The movie makers have also abused the rest of her family, such as her 15 year old daughter. The toughest treatment, was perhaps given to the claimed slave owner, who with use of consistently erroneous subtitles, and the movie makers’ narration, is accused of kidnapping. No proof is given.
For comments and questions: Jørn Sund-Henriksen, chairman of The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, tel (+47) 95161741. Jon Jerstad, film director, (+47) 91560833. Andreas Galtung, Fetim’s attorney, (+47) 91663320
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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