Lmzun is Hassaniya for the pregnant clouds that bring desert nomads the promise of rain.  

Led by young Sahrawi refugee filmmakers, Lmzun Project offered at-risk Sahrawi youth spaces of creation, self-realization and community. With the film school as its anchor and a mobile solar-powered cinema to reach far-flung communities, Lmzun used audiovisual tools to connect the “lost generation” of Sahrawi refugees to their roots and identity and address their most pressing concerns. Through workshops, screenings and debates, video productions, artist encounters and cross-generational exchanges with Sahrawi elders — poets, musicians, artisans, storytellers — Lmzun offered vulnerable refugees a much-needed space for exploration and self-expression. 

The following activities were planned: 

          Film courses/workshops in the film schoolTwo groups of students studied: a first-year class recruited during the summer workshops offered by Lmzun, and a second-year group of students who studied film in 2017-18 and wanted to improve their filmmaking skills. 

          Audiovisual storytelling workshops and video productions: 14 workshops were taught in community centers, youth groups, women’s collectives, schools and libraries. Thanks to Lmzun’s wide reach and flexible format, young women with impossibly busy schedules have been able to learn filmmaking inside their own homes. 

          Inter-generational conversations featuring Sahrawi elders with the aim of producing a “rapprochement” between generations and of infusing the lives of young, rootless Sahrawis with historical and artistic meaning. There were 8 encounters with poets, musician, singers, women that founded the refugee camps, theater actors and creators, and other important representatives of Sahrawi traditions. Lmzun strengthened the connection between elders and carriers of Sahrawi oral history and youngsters increasingly divorced from it. 

Film productions: The following short films were produced as part of Lmzun: 

Searching for Tirfas (short fiction) by Lafdal Moh. Salem. The story of three young Sahrawi refugees who eke out a living by making adobe bricks and decide to invest all their earnings to buy an old car and go to the desert in search of truffles, which they plan to sell.

Toufa (feature docudrama) by Brahim Chagaf. The story of resilience and resistance of three generations of Sahrawi women — Toufa, the grandmother, Soukeina, the daughter and Maima, the granddaughter — who fled Western Sahara in 1975 as Morocco invaded and helped to build the refugee camps in Algeria.

Faith (short documentary) by Ahmed Omar. The film follows Aisha Babait, a young Sahrawi activist and filmmaker from the occupied Western Sahara who has been studying at the film school in the refugee camps and plans to return to the occupied territory after graduating. It explores the difficulties of being a woman activist, Aisha’s commitment to making films inside the occupied territory and her farewell to her camp-based family as she heads back to Western Sahara.

Lmzun: The Promise of Rain  This short film summarizes the essence of the Lmzun project. Directed by Mohamedsalem Werad, of the youth collective Saharawi Voice.

       Film screenings and debates in the community. 35 screenings of Western Sahara-themed films (by international filmmakers), student and sahrawi-made films and other non-Western Sahara themed films. The Solar Cinema Western Sahara team held screenings in schools, libraries, social centers and under the stars reaching along the 5 Sahrawi refugee campsYouth living in far-flung areas of the camps have enjoyed film screenings and debates that are usually out of reach. 

          Closed-door screenings and social interventions: young people gathered to debate inside youth centers, on sand dunes or near the separation wall and have felt safe enough to open up for the first time about issues that most trouble them. 5 encounters with different themes as “Why we should read” for children, “Feminism in refugee camps”, “Tribalism and discrimination”, “Effective communication: Smart use of social media / The pitfalls of social media: Fighting fake news with facts”.  

          Dunas short film festival. 2nd Edition of a local festival created by the Cinema School team and taking place in the Bojador camp, it screened Sahrawi-produced films and offered a filmmaking workshop for children and youth. 

Perhaps the most transformative change had taken place in Lmzun’s own team. In a society still cemented by a rigid hierarchical order perpetuated by the conflict, Lmzun had created an innovative space where team members could make their own decisions, became leaders and acted as mentors to youth in their community. These young cultural workers were undergoing a transformative experience — it was they who defended how to best address their generation’s existential crisis, coming up with the most effective tools and creating the necessary spaces. They implemented new ideas on how to engage disaffected youth and pushing social boundaries by encouraging discussion of taboo issues in small, intimate circles. At the same time, these young people who are also filmmakers are creating and defining Sahrawi cinematography and introducing it in their communities, with the aim of convincing their people of the crucial role that film can play in their lives and in their cause.  

Partners: Sahrawi Ministry of Culture, EFA Abidin Kaid Saleh, Solar Cinema Western Sahara, Solar World Cinema 

Supported by: Prince Claus Fund, Dimes Foundation  

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