Original Title: La battaglia di Algeri
Language: French, Arabic
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Starring: Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Samia Kerbash
Oscar nom: Best Foreign Language Film (Italy) Best Original Screenplay, Best Director
Venice: Golden Lion, FIPRESCI Prize
It is now 50 years since Algeria got it's independence from the french, after countless of bloody battles that cost over one million dead's, most of them civilians. It was on the 1st of November, 1954 that the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) declared war against the french settlers, and this has become their national day. They weren't as experienced as the french soldiers, they where basically just local villagers with no war experience and was a easy match for the french forces, who did every dirty trick in the book to tear their network apart, specially with the help of torture, which made the international society react and the french came under a high pressure. And also the french experienced inner conflict between leftists and conservatives. It's was in other words their Vietnam.
The Battle of Algiers is set in the Algerian capital Algeries where we follow three FNL members, who see all the repression in the Casbah (the muslim part of the city) and decides to assassinate as many of the local police men and politicians they can, to draw international attention. But as always the french's revenge is ten times worse, specially when a bomb is placed in the middle of the casbah and many civilians dies. It's from then the FNL have to plant bombs in the french part of the city like in cafes and airports. Then the government decides to use the highly experienced paratroop squad, lead by Colonel Mathieu to track down all the FNL members, no matter what.
The Battle of Algiers is a wonderful piece of film making. It's almost like a documentary, filmed in black and white, hand held, locations where it really happened and with amateur actors. It also even features the real resistance fighter Saadi Yacef playing basically himself. The only professional actor in this film is Jean Martin as the french paratroop general with his characteristic sunglasses, which makes him one of the greatest bad asses in the history of motion pictures. And to top it all, there's the Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
What I even love more about this movie is that it's never aged a bit, since it was released in 1966. It is as relevant today as it was then. We can clearly see the same thing going on in many countries today as in this movie, like in the on going Arab spring and the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was actually banned in Israel for many years. It was also banned in France, mostly because of the portraying of the french forces in the movie. And one other fun fact is that this movie was screened in Pentagon right before the invasion of Iraq, to do the opposite of what the moral of this film is. In their case it was how to eliminate a whole terrorist network.
The Battle of Algiers is a wonderful example of what kind of powers the motion pictures has. It's not just entertainment, it also has an objective to educate us, to tell us how it really is, or how some certain people feels about it. The perfect political drama, and probably one of the few movies that actually have change the world, and actually educated us, and influenced us politically. And I hope it's still with us after another fifty years from now, which it certainly will.
You can read all my reviews on: