A court in Oslo decided Friday to not prohibit the screening of a film at the Norwegian Short Film Festival tomorrow, despite the evidence that the film is a scam. All of the film's allegations presenting the main character Fetim as a slave have been fabricated. The main character feels deeply offended of the film being shown.
Fetim Salam Hamdi is mother of four and a kindergarten teacher in a refugee camp in Algeria. Tuesday, she took the Oslo based "Short Film Festival" to court over the matter. An Australian film which the festival will screen Saturday, claims that Fetim has been kidnapped by her foster mother, and claims that she has lived the last 30 years as a slave. All interviews in which the film documents the destiny of the lady, is presented with fabricated subtitles. Proofs of the manipulated subtitles were presented before the court by Fetim's attorney.
The trial was a speedy process conducted for 3 hours Friday morning. This was the only opportunity for Fetim to stop the film before the screening Saturday. There was not enough time to show the movie in court or to call in more than two witnesses. During this short time, Fetim's attorney had to argue for how the film's portrayal of Fetim was a lie, and how Fetim has suffered from being presented incorrectly in the film. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara was made aware of the screening only 6 days before it took place.
"Of course I'm disappointed," said Fetim on the phone from the refugee camps in Algeria. The film has followed her like a nightmare since the Australian reporters interviewed her in the refugee camps in 2007.
Did not consider infringements
For the film to be retracted, two conditions had to be met. Firstly, that Saturday's screening is defamatory for Fetim. Secondly, that the violation is so severe that it could defend the removal of the movie the day before it is to be screened.
The first point - that Fetim is offended by the film - the judge would not consider in court. Regarding the second circumstance, the court found it unlikely that one screening in Grimstad will make much difference to her. The judge believes it is unlikely that Fetim's problems will disappear or worsen if the screening is stopped.
"The fact that an injury or inconvenience has already occurred, is not an obstacle to getting an injunction. However, it must require that the injunction is necessary to prevent further major damage or inconvenience to the plaintiff," wrote judge Hilde Stromme Kollbær in her conclusion.
The judge deemed the damage not to be sufficiently serious for her, because the audience in Grimstad is limited: there is only room for one hundred people in the cinema hall Saturday. The threshold is very high for existing injunctions to be taken out in Norwegian legislation, remarked the judge.
The defender also expressed this point:
"The film represents the film maker's subjective perception of the situation when the film was made. Although the film can be a burden on the plaintiff, this is not enough to stop the screening, stated the film festival's lawyer," Bente Holm Vang. She pointed out that it would be more natural to sue the directors rather than the film festival.
"The plaintiff has received considerable support from the international community in her criticism of the film. The criticism includes that the film contains many errors and misleading representations, and that the plaintiff has been exploited when presented as if she were a slave. It must be assumed that this criticism has reached those living in refugee camps," remarked the judge.
"One cannot offend a vulnerable person from another continent just because the movie is interesting or exciting for the audience. There is overwhelming evidence that she is grossly misused in the film, through the systematic errors of translation and fraudulent journalism. The film festival was deceived when they accept this film initially," says director Jon Jerstad, one of the leading documentary film-directors in Norway and also former head of Norwegian Film Director's Guild and ex-leader of the Norwegian public film institution Film Development.
"When considering what is actually said in the local language in the interviews, it is clear that Fetim has been presented in a deeply erroneous manner. There is not the slightest coverage in the soundtrack or the film material that she is a slave. I have never seen such a manipulation of film material before," said Jerstad, who has visited the refugee camps twice and reviewed the film's true content with an interpreter, scene by scene.
The assertion of Fetim's life as a slave is portrayed through nine key scenes in the film. Only on two occasions we are given the impression that Fetim is ordered to work. But in both cases the subtitles are lying. Seemingly deliberate mistranslations are put in the other scenes. Indeed, no elements in the film give grounds for the assertion that Fetim was "stolen" as a child. All of Fetim's family members remark on camera that Fetim has never been kidnapped - but they are all translated incorrectly.
"It is important to emphasize that this ruling does not take a position on whether Fetim has been offended. We believe it is highly probable that we would have been met with approval on this point if the court had considered it," said Fetim's attorney Andreas Galtung.
Read more about the treatment of Fetim and lies in the film here:
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