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Quest to film reunion uncovers modern-day slavery in Africa

Scene from “Stolen”

Scene from “Stolen”

NEW YORK — In their startling and eye-opening documentary, directors Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw take viewers on a journey to a land of vast deserts and even bigger secrets. Their film, “Stolen,” which captures a land at the juncture of politics, nationality and race, premieres Feb. 5 at 7 pm ET as part of season five of the AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. The series is hosted by actress Gabourey Sidibe on public television’s WORLD channel and produced by Black Public Media.

In Western Sahara to document U.N.-monitored family reunions in a refugee camp, Ayala and Fallshaw plan to film the reunion between Fetim Sellami, a Saharawi refugee, and the mother she has not seen since she was a child. At the joyous reunion, a discussion of their family history soon begins. Detailing the conditions that led to parent and child living on different sides of a contested border, Fetim reveals the shocking secret that she is enslaved to white Saharawis living in the camp. Soon what was intended to be a happy record of a family reunion becomes an exposé of slavery in the camp, bringing the filmmakers under the scrutiny of the Polisario, the government ruling the Saharawis.

With video evidence of the enslavement of Fetim and other Black Saharawis in the refugee camps, Ayala and Fallshaw face the threat of losing their footage, being detained by the Polisario, or worse. As the filmmakers struggle to find a way out of the territory and still bring the plight of the enslaved refugees to greater attention, “Stolen” plays out as a thriller that will shock and captivate viewers.

“Stolen” and the other episodes of this season of AfroPoP will re-air throughout January and February on World and other public television stations. Check your local listings for information on additional air dates and times.

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