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The Battle of Algiers December 8, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Film.
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If you’ve 2 hours to spare you could do worse than watching Pontecorvo’s classic ‘The Battle of Algiers’.

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1. maddurdu - December 9, 2011

Excellent film! Pontecorvos ‘Burn!’ is amazing as well in particilar the scene quoted here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064866/quotes?qt=qt0129889.

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2. tomasoflatharta - December 9, 2011

Fantastic Film!

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3. Padraig Yeates (@PadraigYeates) - December 9, 2011

Thanks – Best thing CLR has done all year. Haven’t seen this for 40 years

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irishelectionliterature - December 9, 2011

Thanks Padraig, spotted it and thought it might be of interest to a few.

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4. Padraig Yeates (@PadraigYeates) - December 9, 2011

This is best thing CLR has done all year. Haven’t seen it since 1971 after coming back from Belfast -

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5. maddurdu - December 9, 2011

Perhaps CLR should have a film of the week as well :P I recommend this as its helps give some historical context to current events in Greece http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6JIpS1Tnqk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_%28film%29

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irishelectionliterature - December 9, 2011

Not a bad idea at all… :)

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6. Michael Carley - December 9, 2011

When this was given a cinema release in the mid nineties (twenty-fith anniversary?), I went to see it in the IFC with a couple of leftie French friends. They had never even heard of it. Apparently, it’s almost unknown in France. Fancy.

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Ciarán - December 9, 2011

The film was banned in France when it was first released. It was also banned in Israel, interestingly enough.

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Michael Carley - December 9, 2011

It has only one French actor, because it was understood that if French actors had appeared they would never work in France again.

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Ramzi Nohra - December 9, 2011

yes you are correct re: theatrical / DVD re-release in the mid-90s

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7. anarchaeologist - December 9, 2011

Oh god. Another few hours gone thanks to the CLR.

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8. jokerman - December 9, 2011

Thanks to CLR nobody has to pay to see this, but if you want to, this comes highly recommended. Selection of documentaries is excellent. All the participants of the war interviewed ( French and Algerian) speak so candidly about what happened and their own involvement . While some of it is disturbing it’s fascinating to see such honesty rather than double speak and denial.

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9. Ramzi Nohra - December 9, 2011

This is an absolutely great film.

I went to see it recently at one of the “secret cinema” events in London. They had basically rented out a huge area in the arches underneath waterloo station. You were questioned by French soldiers when you went in to the venue, and the place was full of imitation French-Algerian bars, coffeh-houses “brothels” (ie after the one in the film) as well as people being interrogated or assembling time-bombs in side rooms. A “bomb” went off at one point.

Anyway, the film didnt need any such frills – a classic which stands the test of time. One of the actors was a leading FLN member if I recall correctly.
It does however only capture one episode from the Algerian war of independence – it was an exceptionally bloody conflict which makes our local difficulties seem like a polite disagreement

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maddurdu - December 9, 2011

That sounds insane

Many of the actors are basically portraying themselves for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_Yacef and I think one of the female bombers.

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Michael Carley - December 9, 2011

Jean Martin had been a para in Indochina.

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10. John O'Farrell - December 9, 2011

This is a good background essay on the film:

http://bostonreview.net/BR28.1/stone.html

It was incredibly controversial at the time, but llessons were learnt by more people than the Shinners who ran the film every year during the West Belfast Film Festival.
In the run-up to the 2003 invation of Iraq, the US military screened it to their operatives:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2003/08/the_pentagons_film_festival.html

Worth mentioning is the soundtrack, by Ennio Morricone, one of his best.

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Garibaldy - December 9, 2011

Clearly the American soldiers who saw the film missed the reason they were being shown it for.

The interviews with those involved are superb.

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11. Gearóid - December 9, 2011

Great movie!

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Gearóid - December 9, 2011

‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ about the RTÉ film crew caught up in the 2002 anti-Chavez coup is on there too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id–ZFtjR5c And yes, Morricone is a legend.

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12. FergusD - December 9, 2011

Saw it many, many years ago, maybe at university, so it waa around in the UK anyway.

Were there any “conventional” left in Algeria at the time? CP, Trotskyists etc? What attitude did they take to what was a nationalist struggle? What happened to them? It would be intersting to know.

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Jim Monaghan - December 9, 2011

http://www.marxists.org/history/france/trotskyism/1945/algeria.htm

It was an awful war. The French Trotskyists supported the FLN. Michel Pablo went to jail and became a minister in the first liberation government led by Ben Bella.

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13. Simon&Simon - December 9, 2011

Review of Battle of Algiers from WSWS:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/may2004/boal-m29.shtml

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14. fergal - December 9, 2011

Great film,some really memorable scenes,the women bombers dressing up to look European,the arrival of the paras etc.Has anyone read Albert Memmi’s(he of “The Coloniser and the Colonised”)book “The Decolonised”?
Memmi who was up there with Fanon in the anti-colonial pantheon has some very harsh things to say about North African independence.He maintains that contries like Brazil and India have made huge strides in fighting poverty but this hasn’t happened in the Magreb.He points to corruption(as a viable economic activity and not just one of those things),military regimes,intellectuals not doing their part and the Arabo-Israeli conflict being the ultimate diversionary tactic used by the local elites,you live in a slum in Algeria it’s because of Zionist oppression in Palestine.Tells the story of the first French President to visit Algiers being met by crowds of chanting youths screaming for visas and green cards to get to France.
Fairly harsh stuff and if it wasn’t Memmi writing it,you’d wonder.He doesn’t mention neo-imperialism or the trade imbalance between the North and South.He reckons that almost 50 years after freedom the newly freed countries can now be judged/weighed up

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Ramzi Nohra - December 9, 2011

Valid points- a lot of them could be said of sub-Saharan Africa too. However ascertaining blame is a different issue. Clearly colonialism didn’t exactly prepare these countries to stand on their own two feet (although that is not to absolve the exploitative local elites of blame).

I would also say that another issue is time. South American countries are only now moving to relatively stable liberal democracy after gaining independence in the 19th century

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Ramzi Nohra - December 9, 2011

Actually come to think of it, when I was studying development economics in the mid-90s there were plenty of lefty (or otherwise lefty) academics vehementy opposed to decolonialisation on account of it’s supposed impact on general populace.

That is an interesting sub-point. I remember seeing a debate on Post-colonial Algeria. One of the algerian participants said that people romanticised Algeria under French rule- it wasn’t an egalitarian secular republican entity with modern education etc – but a place of grinding inequality where the “indegenous” population where denied access to the services and facilities available to the privileged few b

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fergal - December 9, 2011

Hi Ramzi,
True enough for sub-Saharan Africa but Memmi focuses on the Arab world as a person born and raised in Tunisia.I think what Memmi is getting at is that until the Arab world(huge generalisation there)breaks out of its fixation on being the victims of History it will be condemned to relive its shortcomings again and again bit like Camus’s The Plague,to keep it Algerian!In other words there’s a need to become active participants in change,in this respect the Arab Spring could be interesting.Agree with your South American point but Memmi seems to think that the local elites in the Arab world use the Palestine issue as an excuse for not changing and it suits these same elites to use this issue to divert the locals from serious socio-economic issues.Memmi tells the visa story to illlustrate how the dreams and hopes of decolonisation led to the kids from the casbah wanting to live in Paris
an

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Ramzi Nohra 1 - December 9, 2011

Yes Palestine is certainly used as a distraction in the Arab world – Syrian Ba’athists probably being the most obvious perps in this regard although the old Mubarak regime was not above whipping up the odd bit of anti-semitism to pretend to be struggling against Zionism (despite happily enforcing the Gaza blockade etc).

The Arab spring could be an extremely liberating movement, or it could send the region backwards. Its too early to tell.

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Ramzi Nohra 1 - December 9, 2011

there is something to be said about the victimisation thing too. A lot of the Arab world had been under colonial occupation for a few centuries of course which would contributed to a sense of victimhood, especially when combined with the creation of Israel etc at the sae time as decolonialisation.
However they are, and have been historically, oppressors as well as the oppressed. I could expand on this but its probably a debate for another day.

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15. HAL - December 9, 2011

Just watched it, great movie.I don’t know if the DeJa vu I’m feeling is because I seen it before or the same Historical situation has just kept repeating itself.

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16. Organized Rage - December 10, 2011

Thanks for this great movie, not seen it for long time.

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