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UNFORGOTTEN ISLANDS (Chagos Ou la Memoire des Iles)

Year: 2011

Classification: Exempt - Ronin Recommends: G

Runtime: 83 min

Produced In: France

Directed By: Michel Daeron

Produced By: Michel Daeron, Marie-George Suriam

Language: French language with English subtitles

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The Chagossians used to live in the Chagos Archipelago, under British rule, in the Indian Ocean. Between 1967 and 1973, the British government progressively evicted the islander population from their homelands to allow the United States to build a huge military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands. The base was strategically important to the US and British involvement in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern fields of military operation.

No consultation took place with the Chagossian people, and they were given no choice.

According to the Chagossians, Diego Garcia was the most beautiful island in the archipelago. Archival footage allows us to understand their sentiments, but now it is from here that aircraft heading to the Middle East take off.

As the film powerfully documents, the islanders were forced to survive in shanty towns in Mauritius and the Seychelles and were given no prospect of ever returning to their home. Many of them survive today in inadequate housing and poor living conditions, unwelcomed by their host communities. They can only dream of their archipelago and share one obsession: to return home.

But the Chagossian community has not disappeared; they remain together in sadness and poverty, and are actively campaigning for justice. With international support, they brought cases before the European Court of Human Rights and won minor concessions from Britain. While litigation continues today (supporters include Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party), the Chagossians have been permitted to make supervised day-visits to some of the islands, on boats provided by Britain.

One of the first day-visits back to the islands is recorded by the filmmaker. On the journey, the islanders recall the day when, in every home, soldiers suddenly appeared. Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagossian community based in Mauritius, was only 4 when he was deported from his homeland.

This moving study of the Chagossian tragedy is directed by Michel Daeron (director of BACH IN AUSCHWITZ, also available from Ronin).

  • WINNER! Young Europeans Jury Price, Biarritz
  • WINNER! Golden FIPA, Biarritz

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