Drowned In Oblivion

Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd.

Belgium/France 2007, 75 min.

»A group were released in the early 1990s on the understanding that they kept a low profile, and even discussing their imprisonment was dangerous. As their numbers diminished due to old age and illness, they began to fear that all trace of what had happened to them would disappear. They were even beginning to forget themselves.

18760314-jpg-c_300_300_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxPierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s film is a collaboration with the survivors of the group that aims to preserve their experience and express their feelings of slipping into oblivion. The Belgian filmmaker met the group while working on other documentaries in Mauritania, and during a decade of visits to the country, he and his collaborators secretly recorded the former prisoners’ memories. When the group decided to take the risk of making a film, this material became the basis for its narrative.

One of the former prisoners, Fara Bâ, speaks for all of them in a commentary that distils their common experience and recounts precise memories and feelings, even dreams. It tells of arrest and imprisonment in the capital, Nouakchott, where contact with family members was still possible, then transportation. Their final destination was Oualata, an old fort more than a thousand kilometres away in the desert, where desperate living conditions were made worse by forced labour and torture.

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