HiT The Battle of Algiers

Made in 1966 by Italian neo-realist director Gillo Pontecorvo, the film is based the actions of rebels and French government during the Algerian War of 1954–62. So realistic was it, that it has been used as a training film.

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2 thoughts on “HiT The Battle of Algiers

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie but I enjoyed your discussion. You do a good job to explain most of the conflict but for French people, especially at that time, saw Algeria as an integral part of France, not as a colony. They had their seats in the French parliament, there were over 4 million ethnic French living there (pieds noirs), especially in the big coastal cities like Oran and Algiers. They also owned much of the economy. The native Algerians saw things very different obviously, they saw themselves as second rate citizens in their own country and got inspired by the then ongoing decolonization but also pan-arabic nationalism (support from Nasser’s Egypt).

    By the end of the 50s, the French political system basically was on the verge of collapse as this conflict consumed the nation. Ultimately general De Gaulle was asked to come and “fix things”, which ultimately led to Algerian independence. But this wasn’t the easy way out. There was indeed a plot of French military leaders to kill De Gaulle. You had these millions of French who returned to France but they lost their property, where they grew up. The Algerians who fought on the French side were mostly abandoned by the French after the conflict and vilified (seen as traiters) by their fellow Algerians. There’s still a major trauma there, on both sides. This event brought France very close to a civil war.

    But going back to the movie, I think you both nailed the essence of the movie. The French start to wonder whether they want to do what is necessary to hold Algeria, the native Algerians do exactly that, what is necessary to make their country independent. The French ultimately backed out of this extreme game of escalation. The movie is very distant and doesn’t make it’s characters relatable. That would’ve probably made the movie not as strong as it is. It’s remarkable that Pontecorvo was able to make this movie so quick after the events and choose a very honest way to portray very shocking events. I should watch it again soon.

    1. You make a really good point here, Gunter, that I don’t thin I quite appreciated in the film the depth of the connection between France and French Algeria; the difference created by its status as part of France, the 4 million ethnic French, and the associated depth of feeling. And yes – the film was made in 1966 and the war of independence came to an end in only 1962. The film was banned in France for 4 years I think? There were very interesting interviews in my version with Algerian rebels.

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