The Battle of Algiers

Produced by Casbah 1965 and distributed by Rizzoli in the U.S. 1967, black and white 35mm negative, 1.85:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 117 mins., Laserdisc released 1995, DVD released 2004.
Pontecorvo's film - trailer
Pontecorvo's film
General Massu and Col. Jeanpierre, CO of the 1st REP (with his back to the camera) during the real battle of Algiers, photo from Le Pen

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The Battle of Algiers "details the struggle for Algerian independence from France. The film opens in 1957, as a tortured Arab prisoner informs against Ali la Pointe (Haggiag), the last surviving member of the FLN (Algerian Liberation Front). As French soldiers surround Ali's apartment, Colonel Mathieu (Martin) issues a final warning to Ali and his family: surrender or be blown to pieces. With the sides clearly laid out--revolutionary vs. colonial authority--the film shifts to 1954, as the Algerian conflict first develops. Photographed in grainy black and white to suggest the style of documentaries and TV news reports, The Battle of Algiers most closely resembles the neorealism of Roberto Rossellini and the revolutionary editing techniques of Sergei Eisenstein. Like Eisenstein, director Pontecorvo took his camera to the actual locations of the revolution, re-created certain events, and cast local nonprofessionals. Only Martin is a professional actor, while Saadi, the film's coproducer, plays an FLN leader--a character based on his real-life role as the organizer of the resistance and the military commander of the FLN. The content of the film has been attacked as being too inflammatory; it was reportedly used as a terrorist primer in the late 1960s. Yet it's entirely frank about its politics, something that can't be said of most Hollywood films. What makes the movie's power creditable is Pontecorvo's ability to present combatants on both sides as multidimensional, nonheroic human beings, even though it's obvious where the director's own sentiments lie. The film received the Golden Lion at Venice in 1966. Academy Award Nominations: Best Director; Best Foreign Language Film; Best Original Story and Screenplay." (TV Guide)

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revised 2/1/04 by Steven Schoenherr | Filmnotes