Bardem shows plight of Saharawi in film documentary

Mon May 21, 2012 4:49pm EDT
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By Teresa Larraz Mora

MADRID (Reuters) - Astonished by squalid conditions he saw when he first travelled to Saharawi refugee camps in southwestern Algeria four years ago, Spanish actor Javier Bardem has told the story of the former Spanish colony in Northern Africa in a new documentary.

"Sons of the Clouds", which screened at the Berlin film festival in January and premiered this weekend in Spain, was produced by and stars Bardem, who won an Oscar for his role as a stoic hitman in the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men."

"(The documentary) was born out of necessity to help these people," Bardem, 43, said last week on Spanish radio.

The plight of the Saharawi, former residents of Western Sahara who now live in refugee camps in neighboring Algeria, is one of the world's forgotten conflicts.

But it is a cause close to the hearts of many Spaniards, who take hundreds of Saharawi children into their homes every year over the summer holidays and organize a yearly film festival in the refugee camps.

"Sons of the Clouds" features more than 70 interviews with experts, politicians and analysts who try to explain the situation in Western Sahara which, as a Spanish province in the 1960s, guaranteed Spanish nationality to its inhabitants.

"We want people to draw their own conclusions", Bardem said.

Western Sahara, bordered by Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Atlantic Ocean, was a Spanish colony until November 1975 before Morocco annexed it and sent more than 300,000 civilian settlers into the territory.   Continued...

Spanish actor Javier Bardem poses for photographers after the presentation of a campaign by the Spanish NGO 'Medicos Sin Fronteras' (Medics Without Frontiers or MSF) in Madrid November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Andrea Comas