Blog post 2. Question 3

by mawan on November 9, 2017 - 7:09pm

For the most part, I knew a lot about the historical events surrounding the Battle of Algiers, largely due to firstly my interest in the history of European colonialism (not just in Africa, but predominantly Asia) and secondly both my partner and former housemates are Algerian, and their grandparents are all veterans of the revolution, so they would at times tell me stories about their bravery and life under French rule. However, what I learned from the film is that the Algerian revolution was not an all-out war involving sieges and carpet bombings of whole cities, like in Syria. Rather, it was a war fought from the shadows by the FLN, or in simple terms they mostly fought by using terrorist tactics, ranging from bombing soda shops and drive-by shootings, while hiding amongst the civilian populace. Nevertheless, despite my agreement with von Tunzelmann’s statements that the film is on point regarding its portrayals of the tactics of both sides (the French used torture), it does however somewhat diminish the role of both women and children in the revolution. The Algerian revolution included people from all age groups and all walks of life, but “The Battle of Algiers” shows mostly the perspective of men like Ali la Pointe and Larbi Ben M’hidi. In fact, Algerian women from every social class and role would play a part in the revolution, from gathering intelligence to assassinations. Moreover, even children would fight in the war with the men. I understand that watching children kill people would be held in poor taste, but I mean think about it, if there will be graphic torture scenes, then what difference does watching a vengeful child kill a soldier make? Also, don’t get me wrong, I am not a nut-brained third wave feminist who is calling this film sexist, I’m just saying that if Pontecorvo wanted to be extra accurate, he could have included more scenes which gave more screen time to female FLN members, because as said earlier they played a much bigger role than people think in the liberation of Algeria. Also, there is a noticeable lack of Harki (pro-French Berbers/Arabs) characters in the film. Harkis formed the majority of the French military and police forces in Algeria at the time, and the fact that there is not much emphasis on this fact (through the use of something like Harki characters), is one of the reasons why despite this film being accurate in many cases, it should not be considered too reliable. Nonetheless, it is a must watch if one wants to study Algerian cinema, like a friend of mine currently does or if they are just looking for something that would be classified a “masterpiece of historic accuracy” as von Tunzelmann would say. The reason I also consider this film to be a must watch is because it is accurate in its portrayal of life under colonial occupation and its overall historic accuracy, with the suicide of Larbi Ben M’hidi, despite fictionalizing Saadi Yacef’s (an actual veteran) character. On the topic of the entertainment value, I would agree with von Tunzelmann that the film should be given a “C+” grade, because the film evidently has the intention of being historically accurate, rather than being as satisfying as say ‘Inglorious Basterds’.

About the author