The film situates the viewer within a makeshift space of an animal market in Algeria. Drifting between feeding and waiting, one attunes to the bodies of goats and camels, the oldest companions of Arab men. As we move deeper into the desert, the site turns into a sacrifice zone and reveals its dark geopolitical secrets.
The sensory ethnography film will invite you to question the banality of displacement, confinement and exploitation in an out-of-sight territory.
A film by Pavel Borecký
Sound Recordist: Franziska Voigt
Translation: Franziska Voigt, Yolanda Schroeder, Hamdi Salek
Academic Consultants: Kersti Uibo, Michaela Schaeuble
Producer: Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern
Screening Format: Full HD video, stereo
Language: Hasaniya Arabic
Subtitles: English, German
The film was shot in Sahrawi refugee camps in partially recognised Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
“In the Devil’s Garden” is a complementary piece to Solaris (2015, 25 min.) and Living Water (forthcoming, app. 60 min). It completes the trilogy on late capitalist modernity as it assembles in three distinct places – a shopping mall, a refugee camp and a resource extraction site.
It is September 2017 and I participate in the educational program organized by Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a partially recognized state in Northern Africa, and “Zentrum für Europäische und Orientalische Kultur” (ZEOK), German NGO, whose aim is to promote cultural dialogue and human rights.
The name of the program – “Solidarity Exchange” – speaks of its own. Seemingly ordinary life in the household of four sisters, Guha, Hedra, Lele and Moina; the life of care and occasional squabbles, makes me experience the warmth of their relationship and hospitality towards me. Yet, while walking out of the door into the vast flatness of “The Devil’s Garden”, the need to join the call for solidarity with their invisible plight suddenly strikes.
Inhabitants of this place recognize themselves as Sahrawis, the indigenous population of a former Spanish colony displaced in the 1970s by the aspirations of the Morrocan royal family in Western Sahara. Being often compared to the Zionist occupation of Palestine, it is needless to say that the history of the conflict is complex. There are, however, two key points. Firstly, the ruling of the International Court of Justice confirmed the inalienable right of self-determination to Sahrawi people. Secondly, those who trample democratic rights held so dear for their own citizens are Spain and France – supporters of Morocco. In the Sahara desert, double standards are free to rule. Instead of timely decolonization, the global publics witnessed fifteen years of war, erection of a militarized sand wall, a proper dose of failed diplomacy, and one of the longest humanitarian missions in the history of the United Nations.
In my film I use the principles of sensory ethnography in order to examine the acoustic and material qualities of the animal market environment. I highlight feeding, milking, waiting and slaughtering of goats and camels as the key activities which order the sense of place. As the narrative progresses, and the audience sees UNHCR water truck, “gift” sacks and old men mourning the loss of home. One discovers that the market is located in a refugee camp. Yet, the night suddenly falls. Out of sight. Far far away. What we see in the first plain, these are men deciding over the faith of sentient beings, their companions. By looking with camels at their captors, the film makes a step towards establishing an animal perspective and revisits the old question: “who am I to seize someone else’s body, someone else’s life”.
There is a socio-political reading to it as well: the market and specific human-animal relations stand for the situation between Morocco, Sahrawis and the “West”. Undeniably, one is the eater, the second is being eaten, and the third is watching. Under such constellation, Sahrawi “refugee republic” becomes a “sacrifice zone” through which the game of international relations is balanced at the expense of weak and disempowered. And you can speculate even further. Look around. How do you explain the growing number of refugee camps and displaced populations?
The Capitalocene is upon us. What must be challenged in the arts and humanities in the 21st century, it is the banality of taking.
Pavel Borecký (Prague, 1986) is a social anthropologist and an audiovisual ethnographer. As a holder of MSc in Sustainable Development and MA in Social Anthropology, he completed various primary and applied research projects in the fields of ethnobotany (Peru), civic society building (Estonia) and urban development (Czech Republic – Anthropictures).
Pavel’s latest film Solaris has been presented at twenty festivals and conferences in Europe and abroad. Receiving Swiss Government scholarship, he currently investigates water-related inequalities in Jordan and experiments with filmmaking methods at the University of Bern. In his communal practice, Pavel curates film program EthnoKino and serves as the convenor of European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA).
- 28th International Festival of Ethnological Film
October 7-10, 2019
- 1st HUMANO Film Festival
September 27-29, 2019
- 1st Vizantrop Festival
June 14, 2019
- 34th Freiburg Film Forum
May 28, 2019
- 16th RAI Film Festival
Bristol, United Kingdom
March 28, 2019
February 21, 2019
- 10th Antropofest
Prague, Czech Republic
January 26, 2019
- 7th International Festival of Ethnological Film
October 6, 2018
- IUAES 2019 Inter-Congress – World Solidarities
- Audiovisual Programme
August 27, 2019
- 16th RAI Film Festival Conference – Expanding the Frame
- Precarious landscapes: forensics and decolonial futures
March 28, 2019
- ASA 2018 – Sociality, Matter, and the Imagination: Re-Creating Anthropology
- Ethnographic Cli-fi in the ‘New Pangea’
University of Oxford, UK
September 20, 2018
Her excellency Omeima Abdeslam, Swiss representative of Sahrawis by the UN, endorses the online premiere of the film, which is slated for September 2019. To stimulate the global publics and “anyone interested” in Sahrawis’ plight, Pavel Borecký and the film collaborators will release the film for a limited period of time to support the demining …
The Leipzig-based organisation “Zentrum für Europäische und Orientalische Kultur” (ZEOK e.V.) provides students of Arabic language with the learning opportunity and “solidarity exchange”. The aim of ZEOK is “to increase mutual understanding and to present and cultivate the common cultural heritage in all its diversity.” For more information, contact Mr. Wolf-Dieter Seiwert: w-d-seiwert(at)zeok.de. Website of ZEOK …
The Western Sahara International Academic Observatory (OUISO) aims to produce and to exchange knowledge about the historical, social, economic and political dynamics of the region of Western Sahara in order to understand the context for the Sahrawi diaspora. “This observatory is administratively located in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Sorbonne University, …