Criterion Collection - The Battle of AlgiersDirector: Gillo Pontecorvo
This highly political film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France took "Best Film" honors at the 1966 Venice Film Festival. The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957. Three years earlier, Ali was a petty thief who joined the secretive organization in order to help rid the Casbah of vice associated with the colonial government. The film traces the rebels' struggle and the increasingly extreme measures taken by the French government to quell what soon becomes a nationwide revolt. After the flashback, Ali and the last of the FLN leaders are killed, and the film takes on a more general focus, leading to the declaration of Algerian independence in 1962. Director Gillo Pontecorvo's careful re-creation of a complicated guerrilla struggle presents a rather partisan view of some complex social and political issues, which got the film banned in France for many years. That should not come as a surprise, for La Battaglia di Algeri was subsidized by the Algerian government and -- with the exception of Jean Martin and Tommaso Neri as French officers -- the cast was entirely Algerian as well. At least three versions exist, running 135, 125, and 120 minutes.
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- [B&W, Wide Screen]
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Cast & Crew
|Brahim Haggiag||Ali La Pointe|
|Jean Martin||Colonel Mathieu|
|Fawzia el Kader||Halima|
|Mohamed Ben Kassen||Little Omar,Petit Omar|
|Samia Kerbash||Arabian girl,One of the girls|
|Gillo Pontecorvo||Director,Score Composer,Screenwriter|
|Sergio Canevari||Production Designer|
|Ennio Morricone||Score Composer|
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Arguably the most authentic war film of all time. Shot and produced only a few years after unconditional withdraw form Algeria, the French government immediately banned this film--for a society that takes such pride in its cinematic accomplishments, for it to ban such a highly acclaimed project says something to the film's credit. As NPR reported in the early phases of the Iraq war last year, the US military studied this film, as suggested by Rand Corporation and other ITs and think tanks, as part of the preperation for fighting an urban warfare in a medina al-Bali. What NPR failed to mention was how the French fought this battle: torture, including washboarding.
While shot on a low budget under severe constraints the director was truly engaged in this work, and this is not lost on the pellicule. This work conveys a troubling but encouraging anti-imperialist message, and its characters, while we know little of their personal lives --"lacking character developement?" whatever mr reviewer...- draws us into the conflit on a much deeper human level. -oui, oui, ce sont des humaines vivant là-bas- (as opposed to FR-vs-ALgérie) perspective. A true testament to the Algerienne people and the human spirit is this film. !! faut finir avec la françafrique !! -- Si le sol algérien n'ait jamais fait partie de la territoire française alors comment peut-on dire que les hommes qui ont lutter contre l'impérialisme français s'agissaient-ils des "rébels" ? -- -- "On récolte ce que l'on sème" Si ces mots sont véridiques, alors faits gaffe à vos fesses dirégants de la fransoeur ! ---
Film theorists discuss this film and political groups have alternately praised and banned the film. It puts the story of terrorism firmly in the parlance of revolution, thus, in terms too taboo for any film of its kind to be made today. Luckily, it was released in 1966.