The Battle of Algiers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri) is a 1966 black-and-white film by Gillo Pontecorvo based on events during the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence against French rule.

Subject

The Battle of Algiers reconstructs the events that occurred in the capital city of French Algeria between November 1954 and December 1957, during the Algerian War of Independence. The narrative begins with the organization of revolutionary cells in the Casbah. Because of partisan warfare between Muslims and Pied-Noir, in which both sides commit acts of increasing violence, France sends French Army paratroopers to the city to fight against and capture members of the National Liberation Front (FLN). The paratroopers are depicted as neutralizing the whole of the FLN leadership through either assassination or capture. The film ends with a coda depicting nationalist demonstrations and riots, suggesting that although France won the Battle of Algiers, it lost the Algerian War.

The tactics of the FLN guerrilla insurgency and the French counter insurgency, and the uglier incidents of the war are depicted. Both colonizer and colonized commit atrocities against civilians. The FLN commandeer the Casbah via summary execution of Algerian criminals and suspected French collaborators; they commit terrorism, including bombings, to harass Europeans. The security forces resort to killings and indiscriminate violence against the opposition. French paratroops are depicted as routinely using torture, intimidation, and murder.

Pontecorvo and Solinas created several protagonists in their screenplay, who are based on historical war figures. The story begins and ends from the perspective of Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), a petty criminal who is politically radicalized while in prison. He is recruited by FLN commander El-hadi Jafar. This character is played by Saadi Yacef, who was a veteran FLN commander.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu, the paratroop commander, is the principal French character. Other characters are the boy Petit Omar, a street urchin who is an FLN messenger; Larbi Ben M'hidi, a top FLN leader who provides the political rationale for the insurgency; and Djamila, Zohra, and Hassiba, three FLN women urban guerrillas who carry out a terrorist attack. The Battle of Algiers also features thousands of Algerian extras. Pontecorvo intended to have them portray the "Casbah-as-chorus", communicating with chanting, wailing, and physical effect.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Battle of Algiers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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