Review of A Siege of Salt and Sand: Catharsis of the People

A Siege of Salt and Sand functions as a case study of Tunisia’s ongoing battle with climate change. From lack of water to rising sea levels to desertification, the country is facing a dire situation which is already impacting its economic prospects. The documentary is particularly useful in demonstrating the effects of climate change at the micro level. The severity of the economic damage is more easily understood in how it affects living conditions. Putting human faces to the loss makes it clear how poignant the catastrophe is.  

The documentary’s strength is showcasing the range of climate change ramifications while centering itself in the working class. In the north, Tunisia faces rising sea levels, which disturbs hotels built on the coastline. Similarly, the health of the sea is a major concern, and local fishermen are not able to haul in large quantities of sea life as they previously could. The southern region faces unrelenting desertification and drought, everything being taken over by sand at incredible rates. Both the encroachment of sand and the shortage of water make growing crops and raising livestock nightmarish. Furthermore, the sand physically overtakes homes, forcing families to abandon their households and relocate. In this way, Tunisia faces a type of internal displacement from both geographic extremes in combination with acute food and water insecurity.  

These are the plights of common people. Those in government and with financial and/or political privileges will not suffer the same consequences. A Siege of Salt and Sand has no time for elite double speak. It does not further the narrative of any powerful officials, assuring its audience that the issues are being fully addressed. Rather, it openly lays out the corruption involved and the people’s outrage at this behavior. The documentary notes that officials often talk of climate solutions to pacify the public while living lavishly and unsustainably themselves. This, in combination with pejorative climate education campaigns, only further insults those who bear the brunt of climate change.  

The documentary appropriatly dedicates almost all of its runtime to the trials of the common laborers and those who are actively creating solutions. As a result, the film is compelling and effective, giving the viewer a look at the outcomes caused by climate change as they happen on the ground. Although it includes plans for climate change like sand walls, A Siege of Salt and Sand is never overly optimistic. It is insistent in telling the story of the common people: their fear, their anguish, their persistence, and their fury. Accordingly, it closes with the revolution, a chance for the people to express their frustrations and channel them into governance.  


“A Siege of Salt and Sand”. Directed by Sam McNeil, produced by Sam McNeil and Radhouane Addala, 2014. 

1 Comment »

  1. Ed Webb Said,

    October 17, 2023 @ 4:09 am

    This review is well written. How did watching this affect how you think about these issues in the MENA region more broadly? Did it help you think differently about any other course materials or discussions?

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