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SPSpecial Programmes

Opium and the Baton

Opium and the Baton

Original Title: L' opium et le baton
Director: Ahmed Rachedi
Algeria | Arabic
1969 | 135min. | Colour
Subtitles: French
Format: 35mm
12+
Opium and the Baton is an adaptation of Mouloud Mammeri’s novel about resistance fighters in Thala, a village in the Kabyle Mountains of Algeria. Director Ahmed Rachedi is known for his frontline documentaries on the early years of the mid-20th-century struggle for independence from the French, and with this foray into narrative, he realistically depicts the social conditions of the time, brilliantly examining their emotional and psychological impact. Rachedi imbues the historic events – only a few years distant when the film was produced in 1971 – with poignant meaning by creating portraits of everyday characters coping with real problems.

The film follows the members of a family who are by turns separated and united by the War of Independence. Tayeb joins the French military, and is thus identified as having betrayed his people. Ali commits himself wholeheartedly to the cause by enlisting in the resistance. Lazrak, an urban doctor, is troubled by the thought of taking a side.

The film’s recreation of the harrowing situation in Algeria at the time illustrates the internal strife of any society at war, and the clash between ideology and the harsh reality – ethnic and class boundaries, torture, the wholesale destruction of villages, public executions. Some want to change the world; others seek to profit. Still others seek refuge in religion. Thus the microcosm of one family functions as a set of symbols, sketched in doubt, confusion and violence, for a conflict that transformed Algeria’s future.

– Suad Shamma

Director,  Ahmed Rachedi

Director,  Ahmed Rachedi

Ahmed Rachedi was born in Tébessa, Algeria. His career as a filmmaker began with his documentaries on the early years of Algerian independence, working in the film unit of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). He was director of the National Office for Trade and the Film Industry (ONCIC) from 1967 to the end of 1972, during which time he made Opium and the Baton. His other films include Ali in Wonderland (1981), Mr. Fabre’s Windmill (1990) and the documentary Rai Story (2004).

Cast and Crew

Director
Ahmed Rachedi
Cast
Marie-José Nat, Rouiched, Jean-Claude Bercq, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Sid Ali Kouiret, Mustapha Kateb, Mahieddine Bachtarzi, Abdelhalim Rais, Djelloul Bachdjarah, Larbi Zekkal, Brahim Hadjadj, Hassan El-Hassani
Production Company
Smaïl Aït Si Selmi
Music
Philippe Arthuys
Producer
Smaïl Aït Si Selmi
Director of Photography
Rachide Merabtine
Screenwriter
Ahmed Rachedi
Editor
Eric Pluet
Cinematographer
Rachid Merabtine
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