Battle of Algiers Essay

Nov. 7 2009 Battle of Algiers Originally released in 1965 and banned by the French, Gillo Pontecorvo’s historical film masterpiece has been called “One of the most remarkable films of all time”. (IMDB) Commissioned by the Algerian government, Pontecorvo’s film brings us into the middle of the 1954 to 1962 Franco-Algerian conflict and the struggle that faced both the Algerians and the French colonials who had occupied the nation since the 1830s. In the 1960s the French Foreign Legion had pulled out of Vietnam in defeat.

This defeat would not happen again in any French territory and efforts where directed to Algeria where the people are rising up and shouting for independence. It’s not long before a full scale revolution is at hand. This film closely studies both sides and shows the immoral face of killing versus the struggle of achieving freedom and independence. It shows the malicious torture of the French versus the Arab-led bombing campaigns that used women and children as couriers. It truly shines light on what man is willing to do in order to gain what is far from his grasp.

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From the beginning Pontecorvo wanted his film to feel real, to play out like a documentary as if they were there when the revolution was happening. In order to achieve this, the filmmaker, through mise-en-scene, shot in black and white, used the real Algerian locations, and, most importantly, used real revolutionaries that fought the French, including one of its leaders, Yacef Saadi. Yacef was also an adviser to the film, making sure that the practices of the Algerian campaign was as accurately depicted in the plot as possible. IMDB) In analyzing the historical content of the film, the FLN(Front de Liberation Nationale or The National Liberation Front) uprising presented nationalist groups with the question of whether to adopt armed revolt as the main mode of action. During the first year of the war, Ferhat Abbas’s UDMA (Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto), the ulama, and the PCA (Parti Communiste Algerien or The Algerian Communist Party) maintained a friendly neutrality toward the FLN.

The communists, who had made no move to cooperate in the uprising at the start, later tried to infiltrate the FLN, but FLN leaders publicly repudiated the support of the party. In April 1956, Abbas flew to Cairo, where he formally joined the FLN. This action brought in many evolues, educated or assimilated native Africans, who had supported the UDMA in the past. After the collapse of the MTLD (The Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties), Messali Hadj formed the leftist MNA (Mouvement National Algerien or Algerian National Movement), which advocated a policy of violent revolution and total independence similar to that of the FLN.

The ALN subsequently wiped out the MNA guerrilla operation, and Messali Hadj’s movement lost what little influence it had had in Algeria. However, the MNA gained the support of a majority of Algerian workers in France through the Union of Algerian Workers. The FLN also established a strong organization in France to oppose the MNA. Merciless “cafe wars,” resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths, were waged in France between the two rebel groups throughout the years of the War of Independence. (Countrystudies. s) Did the FLN have morality on their side? When political murder occurs, it nearly always is infused with a sense of morality. There often is a tendency to write about “violence” or “aggression” as if this was some sort of “biological” tendency, or as a manifestation of some primitive form of “evil” breaking through the sense of civilization. There is some sort of “breakdown” when collective violence occurs. Political murder occurs on the basis of the moral imperatives of civilization.

In contemporary times, the righteous cause of political murder revolves around the “nation and its people. ” Collective acts of murder usually are undertaken and carried out in the name of one’s nation and its people. Killing is the vehicle toward preserving or rescuing or saving the people. That is the fantasy. The enemy is evil because the existence of the enemy threatens the existence of that which one loves. When we don’t like the leader or cause we naturally tend to focus on the violence and aggression, the evil and cruelty of the other side.

We label the other as “evil” and this enables a nation to mobilize its forces to defeat the evil other. What seemed cinematically real then is now old-fashioned, outmoded by new visual technologies that arguably give a more realistic picture than seeing with one’s own eyes. Most of us experienced the enormity of September 11 on television, and we undoubtedly saw more than the eyewitnesses at Ground Zero. The moral imagination of most Americans could not conceive of a Pontecorvo-style justification for such acts of errorism. President Bush spoke for the passionate convictions of the American public when he promised a terrible and inescapable retribution. Something had to be done, and it seemed more than reasonable to invade Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban, who were cruel to women, sheltered bin Laden and hated Americans. Since September 11, we have been following a Pontecorvo script: threatened by Muslim terrorists as the French were in Algeria, we have been caught up in a spontaneous burst of patriotic solidarity.

More than a year later, we congratulated ourselves for doing in months what the Soviet Union failed to accomplish in years in Afghanistan, and the march to war continues in what was then and now called “Operation Enduring Freedom. ” Bibliography Algeria. (n. d. ). Countrystudies. us. Retrieved November 7, 2009, from http:// countrystudies. us/algeria/25. htm Battle of Algiers (1966 film). (n. d. ). IMDB. Retrieved November 7, 2009, from http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0058946/


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