Criterion Collection - The Battle of Algiers

Criterion Collection - The Battle of Algiers

4.8 7
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo, Brahim Haggiag, Yacef Saadi, Jean Martin

Cast: Gillo Pontecorvo, Brahim Haggiag, Yacef Saadi, Jean Martin


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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A forerunner of the "docudrama," this 1965 Italian-Algerian co-production won a slew of awards and became an unlikely international success that remains eerily resonant today. It shows the guerrilla war for Algerian independence from the French in 1954 as seen through the eyes of some of the participants. Shot in the actual locations, mixing actors with real-life combatants and eschewing the use of stock or newsreel footage, Battle comes across as probably being closer to the truth than any straight documentary could have been, mainly because it captures the complexities of the situation without resorting to facile finger-pointing. Although banned in France for many years, the film has become accepted as a masterpiece of its kind, conveying emotion without ignoring cold, hard facts. Its principal asset is a rigorous, impartial examination of views held by both sides, carefully woven into the narrative. Director Gillo Pontecorvo never again made a motion picture of Battle's style, depth, or impact; but his place film history is assured nonetheless, if only on the strength of this powerfully affecting movie.
All Movie Guide
The principal characteristic of Gillo Pontecorvo's La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) is its ferocious authenticity. It is a monument of neo-realism in the best tradition of Vittorio De Sica (Shoeshine, Bicycle Thieves) and Roberto Rossellini (Rome, Open City). La Battaglia di Algeri is made with such astonishing, feral realism that it effectively blurs the line between documentary and fiction filmmaking. Using professional and non-professional actors, and, unbelievably, no newsreel footage, Pontecorvo draws out the passion and story of the Algerian people trying to free themselves from French rule in the mid-Fifties. There are any number of striking, memorable sequences, and the film became influential for the revolutionary mentality which hit the United States around the same time (it was apparently a favorite film of The Black Panthers). A stylistic connection can also be made between one of the most important American films of the 1960s, Bonnie and Clyde, and this movie, which preceded it by a year.

Product Details

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Original Release:
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[B&W, Wide Screen]
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Special Features

Disc One: The Battle Of Algiers New high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Marcello Gatti Production gallery Theatrical and rerelease trailers New English subtitle translation Disc Two: Pontecorvo And The Film Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship Of Truth, a documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said Marxist Poetry: The Making Of "The Battle Of Algiers," a documentary featuring interviews with Pontecorvo, Gatti, and composer Ennio Morricone, among others Interviews with filmmakers Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, And Oliver Stone on the film's influence, style, and importance Disc Three: The Film And History Remembering History, a documentary on the Algerian experience of the battle for independence "États d'armes," a documentary excerpt fearuring senior French military officers recalling the use of torture and execution to combat the Algerian rebellion "The Battle of Algiers" : A Case Study, a program featuring U.S. counterterrorism experts Gillo Pontecorvo's Return To Algiers, a documentary in which the filmmaker revisits the country after three decades of independence

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Brahim Haggiag Ali La Pointe
Yacef Saadi Kader
Jean Martin Colonel Mathieu
Tommaso Neri Captain
Fawzia el Kader Halima
Michele Kerbash Fathia
Mohamed Ben Kassen Little Omar,Petit Omar
Samia Kerbash Arabian girl,One of the girls

Technical Credits
Gillo Pontecorvo Director,Score Composer,Screenwriter
Sergio Canevari Production Designer
Marcello Gatti Cinematographer
Mario Morra Editor
Ennio Morricone Score Composer
Antonio Musu Producer
Yacef Saadi Producer
Mario Serandrei Editor
Franco Solinas Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Battle of Algiers
1. Opening Titles: Algiers, 1957 [6:40]
2. Algiers, 1954: Ali La Pointe [3:13]
3. Witness To An Execution [2:27]
4. Message From Jaffar [5:38]
5. FLN Communiqué No. 24 [4:03]
6. A Wedding Ceremony [2:39]
7. June 20, 1956, 10:32... [2:09]
8. Police Precinct [2:29]
9. Barricades And Barbed Wire [:47]
10. July 20, 1956, 11:20... [4:44]
11. No. 8, The Casbah [4:56]
12. "The FLN Will Avenge You!" [1:39]
13. Three Women [6:53]
14. Three Bombs [5:46]
15. Paratroopers Arrive [1:22]
16. A Faceless Enemy [5:07]
17. General Strike [3:12]
18. Larbi Ben M'Hidi [4:15]
19. Raiding The Casbah [3:08]
20. A Word From Col. Mathieu [1:58]
21. Intelligence Gathering [2:05]
22. Day Six Of The Strike [2:06]
23. UN Resolution [3:50]
24. Four FLN Leaders [5:49]
25. February, 25, 1957: The Racetrack [1:19]
26. Press Conference With Ben M'Hidi [2:38]
27. "We Are Soldiers. Our Duty Is To Win." [4:04]
28. Public Tortue, Random Killing [2:37]
29. August 26, 1957: Ramel And Murad [3:41]
30. September 24, 1957: Jaffar [3:40]
31. "Ali La Pointe Is Still Free" [3:54]
32. Mahmud, Hassiba, Omar, And Ali [4:56]
33. December 11, 1960: Uprising [4:36]
34. "Long Live Algeria!" [2:47]
35. Color Bars [:01]
Disc #2 -- The Battle of Algiers: Pontecorvo And The Film
1. Introduction [2:56]
2. Youth And Politics [7:34]
3. Kapò To The Battle Of Algiers [8:36]
4. Burn! And Ogro [10:00]
5. Burden Of His Convictions [6:11]
6. Questions Raised [2:09]
1. "A Marxist Poet" [2:32]
2. Gillo And Franco [3:17]
3. Parà To The Battle Of Algiers [7:28]
4. Finding The Right Face [6:09]
5. "Reportage, Reportage" [2:51]
6. "The Heart Of The Subject" [6:03]
7. Under Gillo's Direction [7:05]
8. Editing And Music [7:56]
9. The Golden Lion [5:06]
10. Epilogue [2:47]
1. Five Directors As Viewers [5:58]
2. The Choices Pontecorvo Made [3:56]
3. Poetry And Politics [3:41]
4. Making Political Films Today [3:38]
Disc #3 -- The Battle of Algiers: The Film And History
1. Introductions [3:28]
2. The Film And History [1:46]
3. Colonization/The Algerians Organize [11:43]
4. November 1, 1954: The War Begins [6:36]
5. From Country To City/FLN Leadership [7:04]
6. Bombings And Retaliations [12:54]
7. The Battle Of Algiers [8:38]
8. Tortue [7:10]
9. The Battle Ends, The War Continues [6:49]
10. Epilogue [2:35]
1. A City At War [3:56]
2. "Cop Work" [2:02]
3. "Everyone Must Talk" [3:23]
4. Dirty Work [2:53]
5. Larbi Ben M'Hidi [4:40]
6. War Crimes [4:06]
7. Approval From The Top [7:21]
1. Terrorism [9:03]
2. Torture [5:46]
3. "Hearts & Minds" [1:37]
4. Lessons [8:10]
1. Credits/Boudiaf Assassinated [5:05]
2. Twenty-Seven Years Later [4:27]
3. Fearing A Fundamentalist State [5:00]
4. Memory Lane [8:30]
5. Islam And The Media [5:46]
6. Islamic Identity [3:40]
7. Acceptance And Access [7:34]
8. Two Worlds [7:06]
9. The Casbah, 1992: Empty Promises [9:13]
10. A Final Conversation With Boudiaf [1:40]


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Criterion Collection - The Battle of Algiers 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 ! ---
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DrewBurns More than 1 year ago
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.