The Runner
2011/12/08
By : Cynthia La Grou
The Runner is a film directed by Saeed Taji Farouky, co founder of London based - Tourist with a Typewriter, Ltd. an independent, award-winning documentary production company dedicated to creative human rights and social justice documentaries. Tourist With A Typewriter Ltd. documentaries look behind the obvious sensationalism of daily news asking how individual lives fit into the bigger picture, and what happens to ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Tourist's latest film, The Runner, takes place in the Independent West Saharan Republic -officially the last colony in Africa under Moroccan occupation since 1975. The fact that IWSR is recognized as an illegal colony by the UN and others - while IWSR has declared their own republic - is virtually unknown.

The Runner is told through Salah Ameidan who grew up under Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara. As a Sahrawi, he is a native of the area. By 14 he was recognized as a talented athlete and was forced to join Morocco's junior athletics team, under threats to his family. By 1999 he was the triple cross-country champion for Morocco, had won 2nd place in the Africa Championships and was two-time Arab World Champion. In 2003, during a race in France, he took a risk from which he and his family have never recovered.

As he approached the end of an 8km race in first place, he pulled out a Sahrawi flag - illegal in Morocco and a symbol of the independence movement - and waved it across the finish line. Knowing he could never return to Morocco safely, he immediately sought political asylum in France and has been there ever since. He was offered citizenship by France and Spain, but refused both, saying he would never run under any flag but that of a liberated Western Sahara.

Salah insists, whenever possible, on representing the Western Sahara in competition. Today, he is not only one of the highest profile Sahrawi activists in the world, but is seen by his people as a hero, a symbol, an ambassador and a spokesman for the Western Sahara liberation movement.

Apart from these facts, The Runner is basically a story about endurance and profound hardship. Salah Ameidan is willing to risk his career, his safety, life, family and his nationality to run for a country that doesn't exist. As an athlete, he has no citizenship, and because he is too controversial for major sponsors, he survives on race winnings and the support of charities. The film asks how long he can go on in the face of immense challenges and closely follows both his successes and his failures.

Listen to Compathos podcast interview (upper right) with director, Saeek Taji Farouky, (who has, by the way, taken up running to better learn endurance) for first hand insights into what has been called "one of the great untold stories of the present time." Learn about his unique style of filmmaking, the qualities he looks for in a story, and what drew him into telling the 'forgotten ' story of the Western Sahara.

We hope you will join us in supporting this production to completion. Check out The Runner's Indiegogo campaign here.
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