Movie Night: The Battle of Algiers

Sunday February 24th 2013, Movie night: The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy, Algeria, 1966, 121′). English subtitles. Door open at 20pm, film begins at 21:00.

After a humiliating retreat from Indo-Chino, France has no intention of releasing its grip on Algeria. After some civil unrest, the French authorities clamp down on the native Arab population. This leads to the creation of the FLN, the Algerian National Liberation Front, who decide that terrorist activity is the only way to achieve independence. Such acts of violence is countered by an even more violent response from the French. The situation soon escalates to a bloody war between the French government and the Algerian people.

Although this is not a French film it is often considered as such, partly because it was made in French, but mainly because it manages to make such a strong comment on the politics of France during an important part of recent history. The film was commissioned by the Algerian government a short while after Algeria was granted its independence in 1962, and it was directed by a renowned Italian film director, Gillo Pontecorvo, with an Italian production company. When the film was released in 1965 it was internationally acclaimed for its honesty and outspokenness, although it was clearly too much for the French authorities, who had the film banned from France for several years.

La Bataille d’Alger is probably one of the great films of the Twentieth Century, and certainly a must for devoted cinema-goers with more than a passing interest in history. The film is two hours long, it only depicts real-life events, and the dialogue alternates wildly between French and Algerian. It is, for all that, one of the most engrossing films ever made. Although filmed in black and white, the photography is mesmerising, and there is a real sense that we are witnessing real events as they unfold.

One remarkable feature of the film is its non-partisan approach to the subject. The Arabs and the French are shown in the same colours. The atrocities committed by one side are matched equally by those on the other. The French soldiers are shown torturing prisoners in graphic detail, whilst later we see innocent French civilians being slaughtered by Arab bombs.

Few films which retell real historical events are this objective and this powerful.  It is a film which says so much, not just about the Algerian war, but also about human nature at its worst.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, warm and cozy cinema! Doors open at 20:00, film begins at 21:00, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net