Abidin Kaid Saleh Audiovisual School

The Abidin Kaid Saleh Audiovisual School opened its doors in 2011 with the aim of training the first-ever generation of Sahrawi filmmakers. Located in the Bojador refugee camp, it was named after the self-taught Sahrawi war correspondent who captured footage with his 8mm camera.

An outgrowth of FiSahara’s annual filmmaking workshops, the school is pioneering Sahrawi cinematography as a new art form and has become an incubator for refugee-made films that capture Sahrawi oral narratives and tell stories about the lives of Sahrawi youth. Since the school’s creation, film has become an essential tool to preserve, protect and transmit Sahrawi culture and identity, most of it oral, from Sahrawi elders to the younger generations.

Dormant during a year of pandemic and renewed armed conflict in Western Sahara, the school re-opened its doors in September 2021 to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a new team and an ambitious program of audio visual trainings, mobile screenings, film discussions and workshops designed to invigorate cultural and educational life in the Sahrawi refugee camps and provide desperately needed tools for youth to reimagine their future.

The school’s main activities are:

– Year-round film trainings at the school

– Mobile film screenings, debates and workshops through Solar Cinema Western Sahara

– Film production


  1. Film training

The school provides students both with technical skills and a more profound understanding and knowledge of their cultural roots and identity through inter-generational activities and storytelling workshops. Students are offered room and board during the academic year to allow opportunities to those who live in far-off camps.

The school’s staff and instructors are all Sahrawi. Young people receive media training and skills that enable them to create powerful communication tools to improve their lives and their communities and to create international awareness about their situation. It introduces students to a wide variety of media and filmmaking tools and provides hands-on training in each of the specialties.

For some students who enter the school, film is practically an unknown art and they have little prior technical skills or experience, so the school’s program includes an extensive introduction to both.

  • Students learn to watch, appreciate, deconstruct and critique films.
  • The school provides basic training in computer skills and an introduction basic use and care of technical material.
  • Students are taken step-by-step through the entire filmmaking process: story ideas, research, storytelling and scriptwriting, production and post-production.
  • Students enrich their film toolkit by conversing with and filming their elders: storytellers, poets, musicians, artists, oral historians and others.
  • Students have the opportunity to show their films to the community and beyond, including screenings at FiSahara.
  • Graduates of the school develop skills that enable them to work in the Sahrawi TV and radio stations, in the film school as teaching assistants or in a wide range of film and cultural projects taking place in the camps.
  • Some students can access scholarships to continue film studies abroad, including the Madrid Film Institute and the San Antonio de los BaƱos film school in Cuba.
  1. Mobile Film: Solar Cinema Western Sahara

Students at the school not only learn filmmaking skills. They are also trained to become projectionists, debate moderators and cultural workers, and they train on the job — learning by doing.

Through the mobile project Solar Cinema Western Sahara, the school’s students and staff travel to primary and secondary schools, community libraries, youth and women’s collectives and other venues throughout the camps, using film screenings, debates and workshops to open up necessary spaces of discussion and exploration.

The students are paid a stipend as project workers, allowing them to provide to their families.

  1. Film Production

Students trained at the EFA Abidin Kaid Saleh Audiovisual School have given birth to uniquely Sahrawi cinematography through films that portray their lives, address critical issues and empower their communities. These films have quickly become cherished and valuable tools through which to view the many challenges of life in the refugee camps but also envision a future of peace and freedom.

The film school uses the methodology of community filmmaking and Third Cinema, tapping into traditional African models of arts and culture education that emphasize the master-apprentice model of learning and application. Sahrawi artistic heritage and unique historical context infuses film productions, even if stories are modern and contemporary. The narrative rhythm and cadence of Sahrawi films follow that of Sahrawi life, in contrast to much of Western filmmaking, as do visual elements used. Even the students’ one-minute short films are made using this unique Sahrawi lens on life.

Because film is a new art, there are few if any professional actors in the refugee camps, posing an additional challenge. For their fiction, Sahrawi filmmakers must train and work with non-professional actors. They also collaborate with the Theater Department at the Sahrawi Ministry of Culture, where acting is taught.

The Sahrawi community is turning to film as a tool to preserve oral tradition and history never written or recorded but passed through the generations, and as a vehicle of transmission to new generations more familiar with screens. As part of their practical training, students film interviews, performances and cultural practices, which become part of the Sahrawi cultural archives and help them to enrich their own narrative and art direction.

Sahrawi-made films are now being screened in international film festivals and other venues. You can click here to learn more about these films.

Sahrawi filmmakers in training 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 (youth unemployment, beauty standards, addiction, mental health, radicalization and others)
  • Identity issues (generational, cultural, etc.)
  • Gender equality in Sahrawi society
  • Their human rights situation as refugees, and the situation of their relatives in the occupied Western Sahara
  • Stories of resilience, creativity and hope
  1. FiSahara

FiSahara’s screenings and roudntables are organized by the staff and students from the EFA Abidin Kaid Saleh. The school also works on FiSahara’s programming in coordination with NomadsHRC.

Click here for more on FiSahara


Partners: RASD Ministry of Culture

Supported by: Movies that Matter, Dimes Foundation

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