It’s taken five years but the makers of Stolen feel their documentary’s revelations of slavery in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria controlled by the Polisario Front have been vindicated.
After the world premiere at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival, controversy erupted after one of the women interviewed was flown to Australia by the Polisario to say she wasn't a slave.
The Polisario began an international campaign to discredit the film, to the chagrin of writers/directors Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw and producer Tom Zubrycki.
Last month Human Rights Watch published a report based on a research mission to the remote camps titled Off the Radar. The report concluded that though slavery is not widespread, nevertheless “some practices of slavery have persisted among Sahrawis….. in the Tindouf refugee camps and – perhaps in particular – in the remote areas of Western Sahara under Polisario control.”
In 2011 the penal code in the camps was amended to explicitly outlaw slavery and residents established an anti-slavery group called the Freedom and Progress Association.
“The filmmakers are proud Stolen has forced changes to the law in the camps and pushed the Polisario to redouble efforts to eradicate this phenomenon, “ Zubrycki tells IF.
Stolen has been screened at 80 film festivals worldwide including the Toronto International Film Festival.
Its US TV premiere on PBS World was delayed until 2013 to enable the channel to produce a wrap-around special to air with the film explaining the complicated issues surrounding it.