Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Real Ugly Truth about the Movie :" Stolen"

Stolen has been discredited and many queries about the bona fides of the film remain unanswered including false translation, no legal releases, paid interviewees, protesting interviewees, blurred maps, history and countries, the Moroccan involvement and many other issues. After its screening in Sydney in June this year Stolen was modified and shown during the Melbourne International Film Festival in July. The reasons for the changes made to the film are due to serious problems related to its production.

Due to serious copyright infringements, like illegally using interviews shot by other film makers, the film has been changed since its Sydney screening. However, the mistranslation, invented subtitles and scenes remain in the film. A disclaimer was added to the film since its screening in Sydney which states that the content of the film does not reflect the views of Screen Australia or the Australian Government.

However, the mistranslation, invented subtitles and scenes remain in the film.

The film purports to be an expose of slavery in the refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria, where thousands of Saharawis, displaced by the Moroccan invasion of the Western Sahara, currently live. The film, alleging that so
me of these refugees are sla
ves has already caused great personal distress and sadness to the very refugees it purports to be helping. One of them, a key figure in the film Fetim Sellami, flew to Sydney and denounced the film when it was shown.
Fetim Sellami and other Saharawis included in the film did not give their informed consent to the film Stolen. Fetim has been destitute in the refugee camps all her adult life. Therefore, she is a powerless victim to the manipulation and deception of those behind Stolen.

A senior UN official, Ursula Abouchar, who appeared in the Sydney version has denounced the filmmakers for falsely using her interview and abusing what she said by editing and she has not given consent to her interview as the release the filmmakers gave her to sign is still with her.
In the film, there are inaccurate subtitles as well as distorted scenes with invented sub-titles. The translator, Oumar Sy, who the filmmakers claimed certified the translations for the subtitles, has denounced the filmmakers as falsifying what he said. The issue of translation in subtitles is very important since it reveals the essence of the allegations [of slavery] to be completely false.

Locations are muddled so that the film indicates, for example, that what occurs in Mauritania, another country, also occurs in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf- Algeria.

The filmmakers, with these unfounded allegations, have abuse
d the human di
gnity of fine people already living in difficult circumstances, causing great distress to families and children.

For anyone interested in the film they can check a document a prepared by the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA). It is a detailed report and critique of Stolen, investigating the questionable methods and unethical practices from pre to post production used in the making of the film: and (

These are interesting links:

- (This is an interesting program on ABC TV 7.30 Report)


-denied-582354.html (people talking about the cash for comment)


721-dryz.html (Article by HE Jose Ramos Horta) (Recent article in the Spectator).


This is a summary of a document prepared by the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA). It is a detailed report and critique of a STOLEN, investigating the questionable methods and unethical practices from pre to post production used in the making of the film. The document can be accessed here:

ER : the translation of the dialogue (which is roughly one third Spanish and two thirds Hassaniya, the local dialect of Arabic) is seriously misleading in places, seemingly invented to suit the plot.

u CONSENT : the main subject Fetim Sellami, the alleged slave, realised that she and her family were being manipulated to speak on camera about slavery and their words were mistranslated and taken out of context. Feeling insulted and greatly hurt by the allegation, she withdrew all interviews with her and her family from the film. This was not done. None of the participants has ever signed a release form.

u REWARDS : the filmmakers deny that people interviewed were paid with money, however, generous gifts were given by the filmmakers to the subjects, (eg Matala and friends received a 2nd hand car). Violeta Ayala, one of the directors of the film admitted giving money to the Saharawis who came to Mauritania. Three young men, who travelled to Mauritania on a second visit, say they were paid 4000 euros .

u MISUSE OF MATERIAL Instances include: using copyright material without permission, use of interviews without consent, misuse of an interview with a United Nations High Commission for Refugees staff member, misuse of the US-based translator’s certificate. These are serious professional concerns.

Oumar Sy, Mauritanian translator in New York, asked by the film-makers to certify the translations in20the film, wrote on 9 July 2009:

“I would like to reaffirm that I did not certify that the translations, from Hassaniya into English of the final version of the film called “”Stolen” directed by Ms. Violeta Ayala and Mr. Dan Fallshaw and the produced by Mr. Tom Zubrycki, are correct.”

HE Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of Timor Leste, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, when asked about Stolen in Melbourne 23 July 2009 said:

“I was in the camps and I am not naïve - I am always a very curious person… and at the Sahara camp I went visiting people in tents and talked with so many people……this is the first time I heard of it in the camps. It is totally an absurdity and made up, I guarantee you.

The Polisario is one of the most genuine liberation movements and very humanitarian.

I know when someone is deceiving me. I know how to ask questions and I would never, never turn a blind eye if I knew of any abuses in the Saharawi camps because I would be an accomplice by supporting a movement that I knew was committing these barbarities so it is totally unheard of. My experience being there – the experience of the UNHCR, International Red Cross, numerous NGOs, European parliamentarians, US Congressmen – was that no one was ever told about this.”

0AMr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees in a letter to the President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, 22 June 2009:

“We regret that in the film of Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw, the comments of an official of the HCR have been presented out of their context. In the complete interview, of about 90 minutes long, with Mrs. Aboubacar, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau, the latter reiterated strongly that if certain residual practices of slavery could still prevail in the sub-region of West Africa, she had no knowledge of such practices in the refugee camps of Tindouf.

The HCR has not seen the film before its release, and has not approved its content or conclusions either. The film does not reproduce faithfully the opinions of the HCR.

As you are aware, the HCR has established for a long time a presence in the refugee camps of Tindouf. It does not have any information that practices similar to slavery have taken place in the camps. In fact, no occurrence of this practice has been brought to the attention of the HCR. Had that been the case, I can assure you that the HCR would have raised the matter with the authorities concerned.”

Ms. Ursula Aboubakar, UNHCR, Deputy Director, Bureau for Middle East and North Africa, wrote to the filmmakers on 21 Jun 2009:

“I understood that despite my writte
n request to you for my formal clearance to use my voice=2
0or face in your documentary in the Tindouf camps you went ahead without my clearance, which I formally want to protest about. The release form you gave me for my signature is still with me.

Although I did not see the final version as shown in the Australia film festival, I had the opportunity through other channels to view the one you showed to our colleagues in the NY office which also may have ended up being the final version.

I strongly protest about the way you manipulated my one hour (or longer) interview in your film and the short compilation of sentences (in 2 minutes) of what I said.”

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