Mar 5, 2007

Battle Of Algiers.

Although nearly forty years have passed since its creation, Battle of Algiers is more timely than ever – especially for Americans, given the American involvement in a contemporary colonial war in the Middle East.
The film depicts an episode in the war of independence in the then French Algeria, in the capital city of Algiers. It reconstructs the events of November 1954 to December 1960 in Algiers during the Algerian War of Independence, beginning with the organization of revolutionary cells in the Casbah. From there, it depicts the conflict between native Algerians and European settlers (pied-noirs) in which the two sides exchange acts of increasing violence, leading to the introduction of French paratroopers, under the direction of General Massu and then Colonel Bigeard, to root out the National Liberation Front (FLN). The paratroops are depicted as "winning" the battle by neutralizing the whole FLN leadership through assassination or capture. However, the film ends with a coda, depicting demonstrations and rioting by native Algerians for independence, in which it is suggested that though the French have won the Battle of Algiers, they have lost the war.

The narrative is composed mostly of illustrations of the tactics of both the FLN insurgency and the French counter insurgency, as well as the uglier incidents in the national liberation struggle. It unflinchingly shows atrocities being committed by both sides against civilians. The FLN is shown taking over the Casbah through summary execution of native Algierian criminals and others considered traitors, as well as using terrorism to harass civilian French colonials. The French colonialists are shown using lynch mobs and indiscriminate violence against natives. Paratroops are shown employing torture, intimidation and murder to combat the FLN and MNA insurgents.

Refraining from the conventions of the historical epic, Pontecorvo and Solinas chose not to have a protagonist but several characters based on figures in the conflict. The film begins and ends from the point of view of Ali la Pointe, played by Brahim Hagiag, who corresponds to the historical figure of the same name. He is a criminal radicalized while in prison and is recruited to the FLN by military commander El-hadi Jafar, a fictional version of Saadi Yacef played by himself.

Other characters include the young boy Petit Omar, a street urchin who serves as a messenger for the FLN; Larbi Ben M'hidi, one of the top leaders of the FLN, who is used in the film mainly to give the political rationale for the insurgency; Djamila, Zohra and Hassiba, a trio of female FLN militants called to carry out a revenge attack. In addition, The Battle of Algiers used thousands of Algerian extras in bit parts and crowd shots; the effect Pontecorvo intended was to create the impression of the Casbah's residents as a "chorus", communicating to the viewer through chanting, wailing and physical affect.

The Algerian revolution has been called by many the bloodiest revolution in history. Although the revolutionary forces in
Algiers were defeated by the French Army, the long war throughout the country led to the French withdrawal from Algeria. As leftists, the theme of showing the inevitable demise of colonialism as an instrument of Western imperialism was central to Pontecorvo and Solinas's treatment of The Battle of Algiers.
Runtime 121 min. Language : French / English / Arabic . Subtitles : Tamil
Venue : Ashwin Hospital Auditorium ( 4th floor - lift provided), Across Sathy Road, Ganapathy, Coimbatore 12 .
(Part of this write up is from )

Gillo Pontecorvo and Battle Of Algiers

The director of the Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo was born into an Italian-Jewish family of Pisa in 1919. Like the families of not a few Italian communists, Pontecorvo’s was well-to-do: his father, a cloth manufacturer, owned three factories and employed 1500 workers.The director was introduced to communism in the late ’30s by an older brother, Bruno, who worked as an atomic physicist in Paris, and by Bruno’s circle of anti-fascist friends. During WWII, Pontecorvo worked as a courier and journalist for the Italian Communist Party. But he became disillusioned with the party in 1956 as a result of its support of the Soviet invasion of Hungary: Like many other Italian communists who left the party in disgust at the Soviet invasion of Hungary, however, Pontecorvo did not abandon his communist convictions. Which brings us to Battle of Algiers. Algerian independence was declared and recognized in 1962. In 1965, the government of Algeria gave the director "not only all the necessary permits to shoot the film in Algiers, but put at his disposal – though not completely without charge – the Algerian army for the crowd scenes."

Pontecorvo wanted to shoot his film without using professional actors. Brahim Haggiag, who played Ali La Pointe, had a splendidly dramatic face, but he was a poor illiterate farmer whom Pontecorvo had found in a city market and who hadn’t the faintest idea what cinema was. If one has not seen this film, one cannot begin to imagine Pontecorvo’s extraordinary achievement. The acting is so natural and convincing that many viewers and even some critics assumed that the movie was a documentary. Only a master director could have taken this raw acting material and gotten such performances out of it. And despite his leftist viewpoint, Pontecorvo neither ridicules or demonizes the French.

(from )

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