The Battle of Algiers

Amongst the thousands of war movies about Algeria ever filmed, The Battle of Algiers stands out as one of the most controversial and disturbing ever made. For a movie that was filmed in 1966, the brilliance and dedication of the entire crew that worked on it shines through. It is such a realistic rendering of the epic war in Algeria, that it provokes emotions such as anger, dismay and relief. It is not an easy job to make a war movie without insulting either party involved in the conflict.

The Algerian War of Independence is infamous for being one of the bloodiest and most cruel revolutions in the history of mankind. The movie “The Battle of Algiers” is a fact-based film that depicts the hardships and inhumanity displayed by both sides involved in this fight for freedom. After 130 years of French rule the Algerians won their country back. During this time the Algerians found the courage to stand up for their right to Independence and their actions led to the loss of many lives. The war lasted from the year 1954 to 1962 and the director and screenwriter based the movie on real events. Many of the characters were molded on the personalities and actions of some those who actually participated in the war.

As with many war movies, there are many scenes which are explicit and horrific. They depict the torture of innocent civilians and a level of brutality that most can only imagine. The entire film was done in black and white with the crew experimenting with various techniques to produce a movie that looks like a newsreel or even a documentary. Many cinemas pointed out to the public that no original newsreels were used during the making of the film. The movie centers around the main character “Ali La Pointe”. Ali becomes part of the FLN, the Algerian National Liberation Front, once he has been released from prison. The war is then seen through his eyes. Even though the film depicts that the French Forces were able to overrun the Algerians, it leaves you with a striking image of protesting Algerians. This gives you the idea that the war was the beginning of the end for the French; despite their superior military might they would soon be forced to give the fervent people of Algeria their independence.

Most of the battle scenes were filmed in Algeria in the same locations as the original battles in an effort to give the film authenticity. The director of this amazing film was Gillo Pontecorvo and the screenwriter was Franco Solinas. The Battle of Algiers was based on the memoirs of Saadi Yacef: a commander in the FLN who wrote Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger while imprisoned by the French. This controversial film was banned in France for many years and was viewed as being the blue print on which other uprisings and incidents were modeled. Today it can be appreciated for its artistic characteristics and realistic attention to detail.