Film: Battle of Algiers

1965. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

Rialto Pictures site for the film including trailers from the original. Very well done.

If you’re concerned about the US involvement in Iraq, see this film. Not suitable for children as there is some violence including scenes of torture (but it was released in 1965 so the scenes are not intensely graphic).

What is extraordinary about this film are the similarities between the war in Algeria and the US’s current involvement in Iraq. So similar that the Pentagon has screened the film for discussion, inviting guests with this:

How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.
from Rialto Picture’s film site, reprint of an article in the NY Times.

This is not your typical war movie. It portrays the insurgency against France in Algiers in the late fifties. Released in 1965 as something of an indictment against the US involvement in Vietnam, it is sympathetic to the guerilla fighters but does a good job of looking at larger moral issues.

There are differences with the current Iraq situation. France was in Algeria for a long time as a colonial power. They had no plans to leave.

France lost. Algeria became a free nation in 1962.

The film uses local actors. It’s in a documentary style: black-and-white, grainy, lots of hand-held shots.


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