Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Stolen, directed by Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

Australian-based filmmakers Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw originally set out to make a documentary about an under-reported land dispute in Northern Africa. Once they started shooting, however, they gradually stumbled on a story about modern slavery that has become hugely controversial.

In 2007, Ayala and Fallshaw were drawn to the cause of the Polisario Liberation Front, which represents the Sahrawi people (meaning “people of the Sahara”), who have long struggled for control of the Western Sahara against the competing interests of Morocco and other factions. The two spent several weeks in a refugee camp controlled by the Polisario. Inside the camps, a complex hierarchy exists between the white Arabs and blacks, all of whom consider themselves Sahrawi. The filmmakers focused on a black woman in her thirties named Fetim Sellami, who is reunited with her mother through a United Nations programme. Sellami has a noticeably servile relationship to an older white woman named Deido. Upon further questioning, the filmmakers recorded persuasive testimony that a form of slavery continues to be practised. The existence of modern slavery has been detailed in books like Kevin Bales's Disposable People, but rarely has it been covered on film as intimately as in Stolen.

The Polisario staunchly maintains that it forbids slavery. When Ayala and Fallshaw raised the topic in the camps, they soon found themselves unwelcome. Fearing that their tapes would be seized, the filmmakers buried them in the desert and fled. Stolen turns into a tale of suspense and political intrigue as the filmmakers struggle to recover their tapes. Placing themselves in the story, Ayala and Fallshaw document their own moral quandaries. They include a statement by Sellami maintaining that she's not a slave, contradicting what others say. The filmmakers don't purport to have all the answers, but they do raise important questions. You can expect a heated discussion after each screening.

The film's website is here.

1 comment:

  1. I watched the film and came out feeling that it doesn't deserve all the fuss. It’s a sloppy film.

    It seems Stolen, is a work in progress! because it keeps changing due to the problems related to its production. Some of the problems are: wrong translation, invented scenes, baseless allegations, and the filmmakers' connection with the Moroccan regime which illegally occupies Western Sahara.

    Since its screening in Sydney the film has changed. Screen Australia and the Australian government have added to it a disclaimer which state that they don't agree with Stolen’s contents.

    One of the serious issues related to Stolen is the lack of any releases or consent from the participants. Therefore, there are likely to be legal issues involved.

    Also, It seems that their involvment with the Moroccans and their intelligence services through the character of : Reda Taoujni" is very suspicious and is likely to take away any credibility. They never explain how they really found each other and what was the bargain.It seemed that real director was the Moroccan directing tthe scenes in Paris, New York, and in Mauritania, and God knows where else.
    what really puzzeled me is when they declared that the tapes were buried in the sand for 3 weeks??????? how can that be if we know it get very hot there especially for some tapes wrapped in a plastic bag?? This does not amke sense when it is as hot as 45C or 50C.
    Now, the camps have been open to all media, international workers, MINURSO,foreign delegations, and to researchers. How come nobody noticed a single thing and how come the alleged slaves waiteed 35 years till they Saw Violeta and Dan: the knights on a white horse with a shiny armor???????? That is just ridiculous!!!!!
    I truly belive that such a film is doomed to failure and is a disgrace to filmmaking industry.
    Actulaly, the Tax-payers in Australia should file a law suit against Dan Fallashaw and Violeta Ayala as they mocked them and wasted the 300.000.00 australian Dollars.What a losss!!!
    Mohamed Brahim