Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Africa , Conflict Mining/Resources, Film

Dreams of Dust – gold digging in the Sahel

Dreams of Dust is the first full length feature film by writer and director Laurent Salgues. The film was shown at this year’s Pan African Film Festival in Ouagadougou and won the Grand Jury Prize at 2007 Sundance Film Festival.


The gold diggers of the Sahel region of the Sahara are boys and young men who work in horrendous conditions in the numerous unregulated mines. Apart from the hazardous conditions of working in sand and dust which has left many of the children and men with TB and other chest related illnesses, the rewards are small yet as the film depicts, poverty drives young boys and men from across the region to the mines in the vain hope of making a living to support their families. The film is set outside the town of Essakane which has grown around the mines over the past 30 years.

Reading the directors synopsis of the film, I am reminded of all those who cross the Sahara or the Atlantic ocean from Africa to Europe in the hope of fulfilling the dream of earning money to send home only to find themselves carrying the burden of the death of their fellow travellers, living and working on the periphery of society suspended in a a kind of timeless no man’s land.

From the director.

Rêves de poussière (Dreams of Dust) is a stationary quest, the interior journey of a character who finds himself by going away to lose himself. It is a simple story of letting go of one’s ego The characters are castaways from the shipwreck of life. marooned in a gold mine where everything seems possible but nothing is achieved. Happiness is too far away, out of reach. They are all carrying a burden: a heavy past, a child on their back or a sack of stones. In this way they all echo the main character, Mocktar Dicko, who arrives carrying a suitcase but also the guilt he feels for the death of his little girl. Essakane is a makeshift gold mine located in the far north of Burkina Faso. It is the perimeter of the film. This space anchors the story line. It is the setting for a contradictory atmosphere, a mixture of hope and despair. “Sahel” is a word of Arabic origin meaning “shoreline”. On this shore, Essakane seemed to be a kind of port, where people dream in vain of setting off for happiness. The characters contemplate the vast desert as others might look at the sea. They live according to their own rhythm, with a predilection for suspended moments, for all the floating seconds where it seems everything can still change.

Links: The DVD can be purchased through Film Movement