Sand möter bil i dokumentären «Hamada» (Eloy Domínguez Serén/Momento Film)

Där olika världar möts

Dokumentärfilmaren Eloy Domínguez Serén om vägen till «Hamada», en film som skildrar vardagen för några godmodiga sahrawier i (evig?) förskingring.

(Text på engelska.)



But... where do all those cars come from? That's one of the common questions the audience ask after a screening of Hamada. And that was exactly my feeling the first time I came to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. It was spring 2014 and I had come there to work as a volunteer teacher of cinema and Spanish in a small local film school. The assignment was fascinating and highly rewarding because my students were the first generation of Sahrawi youth to learn cinema. My work was to help them to make their own films, support them to tell their own stories and contribute to raise awareness on their extremely complex situation.

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We established an agreement the first day at school: every weekend we would go out together and each of us had to film several minutes of whatever they pleased. On the first weekend I fulfilled my part of the deal by filming those mesmerizing old cars that I had seen all over the camp, forming an impressive open-air museum of metal, rust and sand. When we then showed the images at school I was amazed about the great passion, enthusiasm and vehemence my young students used to praise those ancient and often destroyed vehicles. But most important, talking about cars was a way to openly talk about more profound issues such as identity, memory, family, war, exodus, freedom, social status or love.

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This made me soon realize the extraordinary importance (functional, material, symbolic and sentimental) that vehicles have in the camps, especially the highly regarded Land Rover. My students and neighbors told me stories about entire families that loaded their wrecked 4x4 with the few belongings they could save and undertook a forced, long and uncertain exodus from their homeland by the sea to the middle of the Sahara desert, where the camps are currently settled. Another neighbor, Tiba, explained to me that Land Rovers had been used as makeshift armored cars during the the Western Sahara War (1975-1991), since the Sahrawis lacked actual combat vehicles. Such is the relevance and significance of Land Rover in this community that there are even poems and songs dedicated to those legendary cars. Behold, I thought, a suggestive starting point for a film.

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But everything took an unexpected turn when a young and brave girl came into play. Zaara is a witty, resolute and idealistic 20 years old woman with a quick temper. Her biggest dream is to learn how to drive, get a job and – above all – a car. She's crazy about cars and she tried to convince me that she knows all about them. She offered to participate in the film and the initial idea was that she would «just give me a hand», but she is too energetic, restless and proactive for «just» doing that, so she soon took over and became the real protagonist of Hamada. Luckily enough, that was the best thing that could happen to all of us. Zaara transmitted her lively, playful, humorous and badass energy to the project and little by little we got more and more people involved in the film: relatives, friends, neighbors, mechanics, construction workers, teachers, activists, soldiers... The whole community knew that we were «the crazy fellas with the camera» and they were amused and delighted about it.

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I stayed eight months in total with Zaara, Sidahmed, Taher and the Sahrawi community, between 2014-2017. We developed this film in close collaboration and, in that time, I learned a lot about the different ways young people invent and re-invent everyday life in such a complex and precarious context, an isolated and desolate part of the desert, where nothing seems to move or change. On one hand, they have nothing to do here, and on the other hand, they can do anything their imagination can come up with. So they often choose the second choice and this film is mainly about that: about young people rebelling against silence and immobility and expanding beyond the borders of their constrained reality. For me, it's been a life changing experience to both witness and share the vital, exultant and tireless struggle for freedom of these young and admirable people.

Av Eloy Domínguez Serén 5 mars 2019