By Tristan Dreisbach | Apr 29 2014
“Tunisia is besieged by two environmental issues,” said Radhouane Addala. “The desert advancing on one side, crawling and creeping forward, and the sea rising up. Tunisia will shrink little by little because the sea is devouring the land, and the desert is eating the land.”
Addala, a Tunisian journalist, teamed with American colleague S.T. McNeil last year to create the documentary film Siege of Salt and Sand, about the consequences of climate change on Tunisian towns and cities.
“Communities are threatened by climate change and they don’t even know it,” Addala told Tunisia Live.
The film, shot between June and August 2013, presents Tunisia as proof to skeptics that climate change is real and has tangible effects.
“This is really happening and people are suffering from it. We wanted to show that. We moved all around Tunisia [...] to show the impact of climate change on people and communities,” Addala said. “It’s a scientific documentary in some ways, but it’s also a documentary that gives the microphone to the people and shows what climate change is doing to Tunisians, how they are suffering, and how communities’ realities are changing.”
Armed with two basic DLSR cameras and no outside financial support, Addala and McNeil independently funded the project, interviewing families, fishermen, scientists, politicians, and many others. They spent much of their time in Tunisia’s south, cities like Sfax, Douze, and Tataouine, examining how desertification and rising sea levels were devastating lives and businesses.
“All those towns that exist near the desert, some people’s houses are totally drowned in sand. In the southwest of Tunisia, complete cities are drowned,” Addala said. “Some [residents] left, but some of them didn’t have the choice and had to deal with it. Farmers are losing their land due to desertification, people are losing their houses.”
Addala said that incidents of leishmaniasis, a boil-causing disease spread by sand flies, have increased rapidly in recent years as the desert moves closer to communities.
“When you see the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report, you see that things are getting really really bad,” Addala said. “Siege of Salt and Sand is talking about Tunisia, but it is addressing a bigger issue and is taking a part in this mission of impacting the world and making the world more aware of what’s happening.”
While Tunisia is now one of only three countries in the world that mentions climate change in the constitution, this alone is not enough, he said.
“Tunisia, in less than half a century, will lose a third of its coastline. There will be no beaches for 500 kilometers in places where there were beaches before,” he said.
He added that the country loses 100,000 acres of land a year to desertification.
Addala and McNeil have turned to crowdsourcing to fund the final post-production stage of the project. They set up an IndieGogo site where supporters can pledge money and have so far raised $2,500.
Tunisians, however, are often not able to contribute to the crowdsourcing fund because of government policies that prevent Tunisians from using international credit cards.
“Many of the people who believe in the project and want to help, they can’t,” Addala said.
The filmmakers aim to have the film ready by the summer, and plan for release in cinemas and on DVD.
“I’m really happy about the support we have been receiving,” Addala said. “Crowdfunding from people we don’t know, almost 3,000 fans on Facebook, all this shows that people do care about this issue.”