Letters and Politics

The Battle of Algiers – December 17, 2015

With Laleh Khalili, author of the book Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies, on the film The Battle of Algiers.

About the film: 

is a 1966 war film based on occurrences during the Algerian War (1954–62) against the French government in North Africa, the most prominent being the titular Battle of Algiers. An Italo-Algerian production, it was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and shot on location. The film, which was shot in a Rossellini-inspired newsreel style—in black and white with documentary-type editing—is often associated with Italian neorealism cinema.

The film has been critically celebrated and often taken, by insurgent groups and states alike, as an important commentary on urban guerrilla warfare.

Algeria gained independence from the French, a matter which Pontecorvo portrays in the film’s epilogue. The film concentrates on the years between 1954 and 1957 when the guerrilla fighters regrouped and expanded into the Casbah, which was met by French paratroopers attempting to regain territory. The highly dramatic film is about the organization of a guerrilla movement and the methods used by the colonial power to contain it.

A subject of socio-political controversy, the film wasn’t screened for five years in France, where it was later released in 1971.

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