June 9, 2020

Countries and Movies: Algeria

Along with cinematographic powers such as the USA, France, Great Britain, Italy and many others that produce a large number of films annually, they hold several film festivals a year and, accordingly, having vast experience in film production, achieve great success in this industry, there are countries, in which their own cinema is either absent or in its infancy. But it happens that these countries present films at film festivals that receive prizes, a benevolent press, and, most importantly, high praise from moviegoers, for the sake of which, in fact, films are produced. An example of such a film is the picture "La battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers)".

Yes, we know that the film was directed by the famous Italian film director Gillo Pontecorvo, by the way, the brother of Bruno Maximovich Pontecorvo, an Italian physicist and ... Soviet intelligence officer and participant in the development of Soviet atomic weapons. The script of the film was written by Italian Franco Solinas, and the Italian film company Igor Film took part in the creation of the film. But the main role in making the film belongs to the Algerian film company Casbah Film, the vast majority of busy actors are Algerians, one of the producers is Algerian. This gives us reason to consider this film Algerian. In the Golden Thousand, this film is the only film representing Algerian cinema.

The script was based on the memoirs of Saadi Yacef (or Yacef Saadi?), One of the leaders of the Algeria's National Liberation Front, published in 1962. For his participation in the national liberation movement, Saadi Yacef was sentenced to imprisonment. Being illiterate until then, only in prison he learned to write and wrote the book Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger there. Today, 92-year-old Saadi Yacef is a senator of the Algeria's Council of the Nation (upper house of parliament). Saadi Yacef is not only the author of the literary basis of the script for the film "The Battle of Algeria". He also took part in the production of the picture and played himself in it (under the name Jaffar).

An amazing, if not unique feature of this film is the following: with a huge number of characters in the film, only one professional actor is involved - Jean Martin as Colonel Mathieu. The prototype of Colonel Mathieu was the French general Jacques Massu. Before getting an appointment to Algeria, Jacques Massu commanded a division of the French army in Indochina. His division was not distinguished with special feats, but it was famous for the fact that the soldiers of this division killed the wounded Vietnamese who were captured with shots to the head. In the end, after the inglorious defeat of the French army at Dienbienf, Massu's military units were transferred to Egypt, in the Suez Canal zone, where the local population began military operations to free themselves from the French-British colonialists. But here, Jacques Massu subordinates became famous only because they acted on the principle of “not taking prisoners”, destroying the wounded, old people, and children. In short, all those who were not able to repulse the armed soldiers.

Well, and after another inglorious defeat in Egypt, the landing unit of Jacques Massu was transferred to Algeria to suppress the outbreak of the national liberation movement. It should be noted that the author of the script for the film “Battle for Algeria” Franco Solinas tried to soften as much as possible the descriptions of torture used by the French forces against Algerian rebels, which was saturated with the book of memoirs Saadi Yacef. Nevertheless, in 1971, Jacques Massu published his book, in which he refuted many scenes of the film and at the same time justified the use of cruel torture with the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." But even in France, few believed him, because in 1968, being the military adviser to French President Charles De Gaulle, he was given the task of quenching student unrest in Paris. But he set about fulfilling this assignment, using the same principles as in Indochina, and in Egypt, and in Algeria. This was one of the reasons why De Gaulle's party was soon defeated in the elections, and De Gaulle himself was forced to resign.

Despite the fact that only one professional actor was involved in the film, the picture by Gillo Pontecorvo literally with documentary authenticity reproduces real events. It is so reliable that distributors in the United States had to explain before the start of the film demonstration that not a single foot of documentary filming was used to create it. Eyewitnesses claim that Gillo Pontecorvo achieved such reliability by the fact that he shot almost every scene 20-30-40 times. This phenomenal documentary credibility as a unique virtue was emphasized in his review by The New York Times film reviewer Bosley Crowther, who rated the film five points out of five. What can be considered a real miracle, given the inherent grumpiness and peevishness of this film critic, if not to say malice.

The success of the film with film critics is hard to call anything other than deafening. The site Rottentomatoes did not find a single review of a professional film critic containing any negative ratings of the film. Roger Ebert rated the film to the maximum - 4 stars - and included it on his list of Great Movies. In his review, written in 2004, almost 40 years after the film was released, he wrote: "Pontecorvo's film remains even today a triumph of realistic production values." - https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-battle-of-algiers-1967 According to Russian film critic Mikhail Trofimenkov ""The Battle of Algiers" Gillo Pontecorvo, the greatest - after the" Battleship "Potemkin" "- a film about the revolution, a manifesto of both political cinema and the national liberation struggle." And Christopher Nolan once admitted that it was the movie “Battle for Algeria” that inspired him to create the films “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Dunkirk”.

But! It is impossible not to note the following facts: until 1970, the film was banned in France, but in 1970 in France it was released in limited release (this is understandable). In the United States and Great Britain censorship cut from the movie the scenes of torture that the French military subjected Algerian rebels. However, the film was also not shown in Soviet cinemas, with all the sympathies of the communist regime for the national liberation movements of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Perhaps due to the fact that the film contains too many instructions for overthrowing the regime. It is no coincidence that the Pentagon uses this film as a teaching tool on countering terrorism and the partisan movement in Muslim countries.

Despite serious rental restrictions caused by various reasons, the film can be considered quite successful financially. Suffice it to say that only in the United States the box office received almost $ 880,000 which was enough to cover the cost of its production ($800,000). But the film was shown almost all over the world.

Modern moviegoers highly appreciated the film. 70% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users gave this film scores from 8 to 10.

Taking into account the above, the rating of the film "The Battle of Algiers" according to Filmgourmand's version was 9.061, which made it the 144th Rank in the Golden Thousand.