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Jennifer Merin

'Stolen' Special on PBS

By February 25, 2013

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In Stolen, filmmakers Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw set out to investigate conditions in a refugee camp in Western Sahara, and found themselves pursuing a story about modern day slavery. Authorities reacted so strongly to their allegations that the filmmakers found their project and their lives in danger.

When the film was complete and ready for release, the Algerian-backed Polisario and their representatives created a campaign to prevent the documentary from being seen. Political pressure, threats and legal action were levied against the film as it made its way around the world, screening at film festivals and at other venues.

The controversy has now followed Stolen to the U.S., where the documentary was scheduled to have its American broadcast premier on February 5 on PBS, as part of the public broadcasting network's annual AfroPop Series. Pressures to cancel the broadcast led instead to a postponement of it until February 26. The rescheduling gave WGBH, the Boston-based public television affiliate that originates AfroPop, the time to investigate the situation and create additional content for an expanded Stolen Special. On February 26, broadcast of the documentary will be preceded by a news report generated by WGBH. The film will be followed by an interview with filmmakers Ayala and Fallshaw, and a panel discussion in which experts Eric Goldstein (Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division Human Rights Watch), Madeline Campbell (Professor of Urban Studies, Worcester State University) and Bakary Tandia (Mauritanian Anti-Slavery Activist) debate whether slavery exists in Western Sahara.

The stories in Stolen and those swirling about it are compelling. Check PBS local listings for broadcast times in your area.

Read my full review.

(PHOTO: Still from 'Stolen.' Courtesy United Notions Films,)


February 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm
(1) Pam Meeker says:

I just watched this Documentary and Behind Stolen on PBS. I was sickened by two of the interviewed guest, the two white people who deny that there is slavery. Saying it isn’t slavery because it’s also political is crazy!!! Slavery is slavery no matter what you call it! When you’re owned by another person that is slavery! I watched behind Stolen first and then the documentary and then watched Behind Stolen again. Isn’t this just what the south said before the civil war? It’s political, it’s our way of life, etc..

February 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm
(2) christina says:

I found the program fascinating and I am proud of the filmmakers and PBS for running this series without fear and not backing down. I am however disappointed that the after program interview with clearly cut off mid stream. The promised panel discussion never aired nor did the complete interview after the program. This is America of all places this should have went on and you should have carried it all the way through. I asked PPS to run the panel discussion and the full interview with the producers. You have come this far take it all the way this is America we don’t back down.

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