Looks like it makes a valuable factoid necessary
to fully understand what is going on and what's the stake in the
romanticized film. Even I couldn't grasp the meaning of each scenes,
first because this war is not my generation, but also because
it is still a taboo in France today. In fact, the relationship
with Algeria was only recently reconnected politely a couple years
ago by president Chirac, who publicaly apologized for the nasty
war, and urged the current president of Algeria to forgive the
Arkis (pro-France algerians who fought against the terrorists),
who are still banned and wanted, exiled in France. The situation
is very complex, as you noted, an history dating back from a 1830
colony! The colonial conquest is far more spectacular and bloody
than the late independance war of the 20th century... and could
easily be compared to the eradication of indians in America, same
methods, same death rate.
The War of Independance is not properly represented by the film
throught this one battle of Algiers either, which you agree in
your review. That's the reason why I don't understand the praise
it gets as THE best political filmic message... The "moral"
of the film is so well balanced (every action being justified
by the horror of the enemy), it takes little to no spin control
to make the film either pro-algerian or pro-french. Even if in
reality both sides were nasty, and like you point out, broken
down in multiple contradictory uncontrolable factions, this is
wrong to end the film that way, with intertitles to summarizes
the following decade of bloody squirmishes to gain independance
in a sentence or two...
Since the film is made by an italian, outsider, the events could
have been more realistic and the accusations more incisive more
assertive against the horrors of torture, summary executions,
war crimes, guerilla against civilians, and even massacres of
their own citizens.
The mechanism of terrorism as a means to justify a cause is equaly
well depicted in Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday (2002),
where kids join the IRA after a peaceful protest was rounded up
by the british special forces in Londonderry, and the horrors
of torture in Rithy Panh's S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine
(2003) where 2 survivors of the nazi-like concentration camps
confront incredulous militia vets. In my opinion S21 is
THE political film to enshrine and show around for posterity!
The release of this criterion DVD is most welcomed in pre-election
time for USA audience ;) (but I won't get into politics and the
overestimations of Gulf War 2, which seems to be well covered
by th interviews you mention). How ironic to note the film was
ressurected by the Pentagon in 2003, beguinning its world tour.
Banned in France in 1965, Battle of Algiers was released
in 1975 but immediately withdrawn because of the emotional shock
and political incorrectness, as use of torture was denied by the
government until the late 90ies... When it was screened in Cannes
this year, the film had almost never been seen in France for 40
years!!! And France dares to lecture around about freedom of expression
and liberties... How could a country who covered its generals
for the war crimes they commited, ask today the USA to join the
International Court of Justice in La Hague?
Anyway it's a good thing that the french population admited its
mistakes, with the controversial books published by the retired
generals published recently (mentionned in your review), and that
the film can be now seen and discussed openly for a public mea
Alongside, other films have re-surfaced and were projected in
combination with Battle of Algiers.
- Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès (1972/René
Vautier) Fiction about the military morale of anti-war drafties
on the ground.
- Le Joli Mai (1963/Chris Marker) DOC almost 3 hours
of street interviews about the public opinion on the war as
it reaches a definite end.
- Muriel (1963/Alain Resnais) fiction with a young protagonist
haunted by the horrors of vain torture.
- La Question (1977/Laurent Heynemann) fiction about
a FLN leader tortured in 1957 during monthes.
- R.A.S. (1973/Yves Boisset) fiction about young anti-war
students drafted and sent in a disciplinary camp in occupied
Algeria, to face with hiding out terrorists and be forced to
kill once. The moto of the communist activist is to refuse to
fire, as the sloppy slope into escalation of violence.
- Les Oliviers de la Justice (1962/James Blue)