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The Battle of Algiers: Terrorism, torture & ethics

Uploaded by Nategrey on Jan 08, 2006

The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, produced in 1966 depicts the 1950’s Algerian war of independence with chilling authenticity. Cast almost entirely with nonprofessional actors, and filmed in documentary neorealist style in the serpentine alleys, stairways and archways of Algiers’s Muslim Kasbah. Pontecorvo used newsreel film stock, telephoto close-ups, and a percussive, hard-driving musical score to create a swiftly moving political thriller (Hornaday). It is an anatomy of terror and counter terror that remains unsurpassed (Rainer). The film does not romanticize terrorists, demonize the French, or valorize violence in the name of some sort of people’s revolution; instead the director goes at once deeper and higher, examining each side’s motives and contradictions (Hornaday). Bombs and bullets do not choose their targets, individuals do, both sides do savage things and both can supply rational arguments to prove that they are on the side of morality. The film is poignant because it shows a level of bitter reality (Ebert) there are no heroes, only perpetrators and innocent victims. Children shoot French officials at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Men fire automatic weapons indiscriminately into crowds. Soldiers brutalize their captives and the military indiscriminately razes buildings and threaten civilians.

The film begins with the Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN, issuing a communiqué calling for the expulsion of all French from Algeria, followed by the murders of policemen, shot and stabbed seemingly at random by nondescript Arab perpetrators who then disappear into the crowd. The incidents multiply and the prefect, moving outside the law, arranges the clandestine bombing of a building in the Arab quarter associated with the rebels. Thereafter the FLN begins it notorious civilian bombing campaign (Beary). In the film’s strongest scene, three Arab women dressed as chic French girls infiltrate the European Quarter, which has been isolated from the Kasbah by checkpoints, in order to plant bombs in two cafes and an Air France office. We see businessmen at the bar, travelers waiting to board planes, teenagers dancing, and children eating ice cream cones… all about to be incinerated (Rainer). The bombs detonate simultaneously, littering the French Quarter with maimed bodies and debris, sending the populace into a panic. Paris responds by deploying French Special Forces to Algiers, and a news bulletin informs that “the...

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Uploaded by:   Nategrey

Date:   01/08/2006

Category:   Film

Length:   7 pages (1,484 words)

Views:   6023

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