Private Project

In the Devil's Garden

The film situates the viewer within a makeshift space of an animal market in Algeria. Drifting between feeding and waiting, one attunes to the bodies of goats and camels, the oldest companions of Arab men. As we move deeper into the desert, the site turns into a sacrifice zone and reveals its dark geopolitical secrets.

The sensory ethnography film will invite you to question the banality of displacement, confinement and exploitation in an out-of-sight territory.
Note: The film was shot in hard-to-reach Sahrawi refugee camps in partially recognised Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Note II: “In the Devil's Garden” is a complementary piece to "Solaris” (2015, 25 min.) and "Living Water” (forthcoming, app. 60 min). As such it completes the trilogy on late capitalist modernity as it is reflected in three distinct places – a shopping mall, a refugee camp and a resource extraction site.

  • Pavel Borecký
  • Pavel Borecký
    Camera and Editing
  • Franziska Voigt
    Sound Recordist
  • Franziska Voigt, Yolanda Schroeder, Hamdi Mohamad Salek
  • Kersti Uibo, Michaela Schaeuble
    Academic Consultants
  • Institute of Social Anthropology, UNIBE
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 1, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    6,000 CHF
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Kratovo Film Festival 2018
    Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of
    November 23, 2018
    Macedonian premiere
  • Antropofest 2019
    Czech Republic
    January 26, 2019
    Czech Premiere
  • RAI Film Festival 2019
    United Kingdom
    March 28, 2019
  • EthnoKino 2019
    February 21, 2019
    Swiss Premiere
  • Freiburg Film Forum 2019
    May 28, 2019
    German Premiere
  • IUAES 2019 Inter-Congress "World Solidarities"
    August 27, 2019
    Polish Premiere
    official selection in audiovisual programme
  • Vizantrop Festival 2019
    June 14, 2019
    Serbian premiere
  • International Festival of Ethnological Film 2019
    October 8, 2019
    official selection
  • IX. Ethnographic Film Festival of Recife
    August 20, 2019
    National premiere
  • X. Ethnofest - Athens Ethnographic Film Festival
    December 1, 2019
    Greek premiere
Distribution Information
  • Pavel Borecky / Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern
    Country: Switzerland
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Pavel Borecký

Pavel holds MSc in Sustainable Development (Prague) and MA in Social Anthropology, Audiovisual Ethnography (Tallinn). Currently, he finishes his PhD project Living Water on more-than-human methods and socio-cultural ramifications of water scarcity in Jordan at the University of Bern, Walter Benjamin Kolleg.

In his professional life, Pavel co-founded Anthropictures and completed several applied research projects in Serbia, Peru, Estonia and the Czech Republic. Pavel’s latest films Solaris (2015) and In the Devil’s Garden (2018) were screened at numerous film festivals and conferences in Europe and abroad.

In his communal practice, Pavel curates EthnoKino, the film programme in Bern, and serves as Why the World Needs Anthropologists symposium convenor at European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA). What draws him out into multimedia exploration and subsequent activism are suicidal twitches of late capitalist modernity.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

In September 2017 I participated in the educational program organized by Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a partially recognized state in Northern Africa, and "Zentrum für Europäische und Orientalische Kultur" (ZEOK), German NGO, whose aim is to promote cultural dialogue and human rights. The name of the program - "Solidarity Exchange" - speaks of its own. A seemingly ordinary life in the household of four sisters, Guha, Hedra, Lele and Moina; the life of care and occasional squabbles, made me experience the warmth of their relationship and hospitality towards me. Yet, while walking out of the door into the vast flatness of "The Devil's Garden", the need to join the call for "solidarity" with their invisible plight suddenly stroke me.

Inhabitants of this place recognize themselves as Sahrawis, the indigenous population of a former Spanish colony displaced in the 1970s by the aspirations of the Morrocan royal family in the Western Sahara. Being often compared to the Zionist occupation of Palestine, it is needless to say that the history of conflict is complex. There are, however, two key points. Firstly, the ruling of the International Court of Justice has confirmed the inalienable right of self-determination to Sahrawi people. Secondly, those who trample democratic rights held so dear for their own citizens are Spain and France - supporters of Morocco. In the Sahara desert, double standards are free to rule. Instead of timely decolonization, the publics witnessed fifteen years of war, erection of the militarized sand wall, failed diplomacy, and one of the longest humanitarian missions in the history of the United Nations.

In my film I have used the principles of sensory ethnography in order to examine the acoustic and material qualities of the animal market environment. I have decided to highlight feeding, milking, waiting and slaughtering of goats and camels as the key activities which order this place. As the narrative progresses, and the audience sees UNHCR water truck, "gift" sacks and old men mourning the loss of home, it discovers that the market is located in a refugee camp. And the night falls. Out of sight. Far far away. What we see in the first plain it is a man deciding over the faith of sentient beings, his companions. By looking with camels at their captors, I attempt to make a step towards establishing an animal perspective. As such, the film revisits the old question "who am I to seize someone else's body, someone else's life".

There is socio-political reading to it as well: the market and specific human-animal relations stand for the situation between Morocco, Sahrawis and the "West". Undeniably, one is the eater, the second is being eaten, and the third is watching. Under such constellation Sahrawi "refugee republic" becomes a "sacrifice zone" through which the game of international relations is balanced at the expense of weak and disempowered. And you can speculate even further. Look around. The Capitalocene is upon us. How do you explain the growing number of refugee camps and displaced populations?

What must be challenged in the arts and humanities in the 21st century it is the banality of taking.