Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Battle of Algiers

Powerful story of the battle for independence by Algerian Muslims, against the French, in 1957. Although the film is fiction it plays, very much, like a documentary. Many have referenced this film as an allegory for Vietnam, Iraq and other places where locals have battled for independence from foreign powers. The French eventually win the battle of Algiers, but lose the war a few years later when another uprising leads to Algerian independence.

The film follows the story from both the Muslim terrorist/rebel perspective and that of the French colonial forces and army. The Algerian storyline is one of both sorrow and pride. They feel that they have been exploited and discriminated upon by the colonial French. The French believe that they have brought culture, stability and economic growth to an impoverished people. Of course, both are right!

This is the first time, that I can remember, where bombings of businesses and public gathering places were used as a terrorists device. The scenes of the Muslim women changing their appearance and smuggling the bombs into cafes and bars are riveting. The direction, script and acting are all fascinating. The documentary feel makes the impact all the more powerful. Whether it is locals being tortured or the French being bombed, the violence really strikes a cord. If I had been unaware I would swear that much of the film is based on news footage.

Fascinating look at a situation that holds as much truth today as it did in the 1950's. I can't say that I "enjoyed" The Battle of Algiers, but it is a first-rate film.

Filmed in 1966, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, written by Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas, starring Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi and Fusia El Kader.

This is the only film to be nominated for Academy Awards in two years that are non-consecutive. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967 and for both Best Director and Best Screenplay in 1969.

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