Chronicle of the Years of Embers
Chronicle of the Years of EmbersOriginal Title: Chronique des années de braise
Director: Mohammad Lakhdar Hamina
Algeria | Arabic
A lyrical epic account of the events that led to the Algerian war of liberation from French colonization, Chronicle of the Years of Embers
was the first and is still the only film from the Arab world to be awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The dramatic plot, structured in six chapters, is told from the point of view of Ahmed, a peasant who is reborn as a revolutionary hero.
The film opens in the late 1930s when the expropriation of arable land and water resources by French colonists, who had occupied Algeria since 1830, causes a devastating drought with wide-ranging impact. Under the threat of starvation, Ahmed is forced to migrate with his family to the nearby city, where they struggle to survive. Eventually he is drafted into a battalion of Algerian soldiers to fight alongside the Allied forces in the Second World War. When he returns home, French colonial rule over the country has strengthened its grip as an insurrection begins to emerge. Ahmed joins the rebels; he fights remarkably but is killed in an ambush. His son continues the fight, and the film ends on November 11, 1954, when the war of independence is formally declared.
Chronicle of the Years of Embers has become seminal in Arab cinema and the genre of epic historical reconstitutions of the birth of modern nations in the Arab world. It delivers a searing
depiction of the anti-colonial struggle’s history, the suffering that Algerians endured, the first political expressions of a resistance and ultimately, as French colonists retaliated with violence, the progression toward armed revolution. Director Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s feat is to have also forged a thoroughly distinctive idiom, blending local lore and traditional poetry and storytelling to narrate a people’s modern political awakening in their fight for justice and dignity.
– Rasha Salti