The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of AlgiersOriginal Title: La battaglia di Algeri
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Italy, Algeria | Arabic, French
| Black & White
Director Gillo Pontecorvo’s greatest film, searing documentary-style retelling of the tough, grinding and tragic struggle for Algerian independence, is a groundbreaking neorelist epic narrative about war that convinces viewers they are watching the real thing.
We are plunged into a key year in the tumultuous campaign against the occupying French in the 1950s. Violence is escalating on both sides, children are shooting soldiers at point-blank range, women are planting and carrying out bomb attacks in cafés, and French soldiers use torture to break the will of insurgents. Although the director’s sympathies with the resistance
are never in doubt, the film is stunningly tough-minded and fair.
The largely nonprofessional cast brings a degree of authenticity to the film’s shocking power – especially revolutionary hero Saadi Yacef, who plays the character of a guerilla leader very close to his actual role in the war. He also co-produced the film, which was based on his memoirs of coordinating an insurgent movement while on the run – at one point he was imprisoned and condemned to death. Ultimately he was able to return and witness the Algerian
people win the war.
Shot on the streets of Algiers in 1965, this is a chilling study of modern warfare, with its terrorist
attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them. No other film comes this close to re-creating a struggle for independence, and the work by Gillo Pontecorvo and Saadi Yacef has astonishing relevance today.
– Mohammad Khawaja