This project was born in 2002 when refugees from the Western Sahara approached Spanish civil society with the idea of creating a film project that would bring movies and entertainment to the Sahrawi refugee camps, located in Southwestern Algeria. The project became known as Cinema for the Sahrawi People and became real with the help of scores of volunteers, as well as a mix of public and private funding.
By 2003, the first Western Sahara International Film Festival was up and running. Thousands of refugees experienced for the first time the magic of film on a giant screen under the night sky.
Hundreds of filmmakers, musicians, artists and ordinary people, most from Spain but also from Peru, Cuba and other Latin American countries, travelled to the camps from Spain and shared a week of cultural events, roundtables and film workshops.
As the film festival grew with each passing year, its film workshops became especially popular. Soon, it was clear that the refugees needed year-round audiovisual training, the kind that would allow them to tell their own stories and address pressing issues.
In 2010 the Abidin Kaid Saleh Audiovisual School was built, and in 2011 it began to offer a one-year audiovisual training program. Over 85% of the student body is composed of young women.
The refugees also expressed the need for year-round access to films that would cover both leisure and educational needs. People also began to donate DVD's to the refugees, and eventually the festival organizers set up a network of DVD libraries that included screens and film projectors, allowing the communities to hold screenings year-round.