Saturday, 20 February 2010

Aida Hmaida's House

(We're staying in Aida Hmaida's house. Ahmed is her son. He sits quietly in the corner of the room where we sleep and eat)

As we try to follow Salah in a car - he's running along the main road that runs out of Samara camp - the Polisario military police stop us at the end of the road. You need permission to drive out of the camps with foreigners (for our protection, we're told). I remember the Amnesty reports, saying the Sahrawi don't have full freedom of movement, the camps surrounded by Sahrawi and Algerian military.

I shoot a few scenes with a 7D that Jo rented for this trip. I fall in love with the camera, beautiful image, organic movement, the separation and depth of field. And the crazy skewing of the image from the rolling shutter. This is the future of filmmaking, we are told, a "game-changer", as Phillip Bloom calls it.

Saleh is sitting with his friend, Sahel. He tells me he's Moroccan, as a joke, but he says it with such a straight face I believe him. "He's Moroccan but he works with us," he keeps saying. But it's a joke, and they laugh together at the fact that I believed him, and I was surprised and took him seriously. Sahel shows me his leg. He was kidnapped from his house in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, after a demonstration in the early days of the Sahrawi Intifada. His leg was broken so badly - blood everywhere - from the beating, the Moroccans thought he was dead and dumped him in the streets outside the city of Layounne where he lived. A family found him and brought him to hospital. He had pins in his legs for three months, then he got a travel visa to Mauritania, and from there he escaped to the Algerian camps.

(10:30, meet Mohammad Saleh at the centre for an interview)

Mohammad and Saleh talking to me about war: another war is the only solution, they say.
"But the Moroccans will kill you."
We fought them for 15 years already. Then, Morocco was stronger and we were only 4000 men. Now every Sahrawi is a soldier.
I've heard this before, many times before, and still it makes me sad. I hear it all the time in Palestine. Which of us is being unrealistic?

"What's happened with negotiations so far? Nothing. Only war can change the situation."
"I understand what you're saying, but I still don't support the idea of war."
"All the young people in the camps today will tell you the same thing."
And I heard that even back in 2006 on my first visit.

I'm still struggling over this question: should interviews be done in the field, as casual interactions between subject and camera, or in a controlled and formalised environment? There is a separation in the formal interview, a disembodiment from the rest of the film, a detached talking head. But here is also more technical control and an isolation in the formal interview that can be advantageous. I still have no answer for this, and though the question is exciting, offering a lot of possible answers, this lack of decision is tying my hands. I'm frustrated between the two choices, two very different approaches . I still haven't done any "interviews" as such, but instead I've asked questions casually from behind the camera. Where to go with this..?

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