Short Film Profile

Cast in Sand: Najla and Agaila

Two lives intertwine to paint a picture of daily life in the Saharawi refugee camps of southwestern Algeria. Najla, a woman in her twenties, is our touchstone. Young, beautiful, and serious, she speaks English and dreams of going abroad to study. She introduces her elderly neighbor and role model, Agaila – a striking wise woman. Her life began in Western Sahara before the occupation, where she and her people lived a nomadic life built around their camels. When she was a young mother the Moroccan army invaded, and she was forced to flee on foot, along with thousands of others. Their journey was long and difficult, their steps dogged by hunger and napalm; uncounted multitudes died along the way. They began life anew with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and the children that had survived. Now, 38 years later, the camps have become small cities, with hospitals and internet cafes. Agaila still lives much in the old way – making butter from her goats’ milk, practicing traditional medicine. But her life is undeniably changed. Unable to move from this barren place, she is forced to feed her animals cardboard left over from international aid supplies. Her heart was broken when her homeland was invaded, the rift held open by the continuing occupation. Despite this pervasive despair, she lives her life actively and passionately, working for her people in her own way: treating their ailments and preserving her practical arts of living “the old way.” Najla, meanwhile, struggles to gain an education and enter the realm of modern international activism.
human rights arab world



Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Roberts-Wolfe

Previous screenings

12 Feb – 16 Feb | Denton, United States
15 Mar – 20 Mar | Los Angeles, United States
3 Apr – 13 Apr | Muskogee, United States
29 Apr – 4 May | Sahara, Algeria

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Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 6 Dec 2013