La Bataille d'Alger (1966)
aka: The Battle of Algiers
A film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

Genre: Drama / War


La Bataille d'Alger photo
After a humiliating retreat from Indo-Chino, France has no intention of releasing its grip on Algeria. After some civil unrest, the French authorities clamp down on the native Arab population. This leads to the creation of the FLN, the Algerian National Liberation Front, who decide that terrorist activity is the only way to achieve independence. Such acts of violence is countered by an even more violent response from the French. The situation soon escalates to a bloody war between the French government and the Algerian people...
© 2012

Film Review

Although this is not a French film it is often considered as such, partly because it was made in French, but mainly because it manages to make such a strong comment on the politics of France during an important part of recent history. The film was commissioned by the Algerian government a short while after Algeria was granted its independence in 1962, and it was directed by a renowned Italian film director, Gillo Pontecorvo, with an Italian production company. When the film was released in 1965 it was internationally acclaimed for its honesty and outspokenness, although it was clearly too much for the French authorities, who had the film banned from France for several years.

La Bataille d'Alger is probably one of the great films of the Twentieth Century, and certainly a must for devoted cinema-goers with more than a passing interest in history. The film is two hours long, it only depicts real-life events, and the dialogue alternates wildly between French and Algerian. It is, for all that, one of the most engrossing films ever made. Although filmed in black and white, the photography is mesmerising, and there is a real sense that we are witnessing real events as they unfold.

One remarkable feature of the film is its non-partisan approach to the subject. The Arabs and the French are shown in the same colours. The atrocities committed by one side are matched equally by those on the other. The French soldiers are shown torturing prisoners in graphic detail, whilst later we see innocent French civilians being slaughtered by Arab bombs. Whilst there is some pretty vivid demonstrations of violence and cruelty, this is probably less shocking than the attitudes of the French and FLN terrorists.

The Algerian war was a terrible period of history and this film relates just part of that conflict, centred on the town of Algiers, to coldly inform us, not to shock, not to entertain. Few films which retell real historical events are this objective and this powerful. It is a film which says so much, not just about the Algerian war, but also about human nature at its worst.

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Film Credits

  • Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Script: Gillo Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas
  • Photo: Marcello Gatti
  • Music: Ennio Morricone, Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Cast: Brahim Hadjadj (Ali La Pointe), Jean Martin (Col. Mathieu), Yacef Saadi (Djafar), Samia Kerbash (One of the girls), Ugo Paletti (Captain), Fusia El Kader (Halima), Mohamed Ben Kassen (Petit Omar), Michele Kerbash (Fathia), Tommaso Neri (Captain), Omar, Franco Morici, Gene Wesson
  • Country: Italy / Algeria
  • Language: French / Italian / English / Arabic
  • Support: Black and White
  • Runtime: 121 min
  • Aka: The Battle of Algiers ; La battaglia di Algeri

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