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The Battle of Algiers-- The truth behind one of the bloodiest wars fought on the African Continent

Gillo Pontecorvo - The Battle Of Algiers (1965)

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Gillo Pontecorvo - The Battle Of Algiers (1965)
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     In 1965 Gillo Pontecorvo released one of the greatest films of the decade and the century, “The Battle of Algiers”, otherwise known is Italian as “La Battaglia di Algeri”.  Pontecorvo succeeded at creating a truly astounding film with unbiased views from the point of views of the French and the Algerians.  What makes the "Battle of Algiers" so truly astounding is the fact that it is not a documentary and contains no real footage, but the film is so precise and tells a very real story that is has become an icon in the film industry.  To most people the physical battle for Algerian liberation is nothing, but "The Battle of Algiers" bring this 'lost' war to life with great power and an everlasting affect. 
    "The Battle of Algiers" was filmed in the streets of Algiers, in places where the actual battles were fought, thus creating a very realistic feel to show what fighting really was like for members of the French army and FLN.
    Pontecorvo chose a very tight focus on which he based his movie.  Instead of chronicalling the entire war, he focused on the years 1954-1957 in which the FLN is organizing guerilla fighters to resist the French and ultimately save Algeria from colonial power.
    What makes "The Battle of Algiers" stand aside from many other historical/political films, is the fact that the viewpoint is completely unbiased.  We see torture from the French against Algerian and Muslim citizens, and we also see the civilian bombings done by FLN members in disguise.
 
The following synopsis is a brief outline of the plot:
 
"The film opens in 1957. Mathieu and his officers have just forced a confession from a half-naked, unshaven and deeply distressed Algerian. The middle-aged man has revealed La Pointe’s identity and whereabouts. As the movie’s opening credits roll, paratroopers locate La Pointe and three other resistance fighters, including a young woman and 13-year-old boy, hiding inside a secret wall cavity in the Casbah. They are given an ultimatum—surrender or be blown up.
 
As La Pointe and his comrades ponder their fate, the film flashes back to 1954 when the FLN launched major military operations in Algiers. Adopting a quasi-documentary form, the movie then recreates key stages in the uprising and the political evolution of La Pointe.
 
La Pointe, a former boxer and petty thief, decides to joins the FLN after witnessing the guillotining of an Algerian resistance fighter by the French colonial government. After testing his trustworthiness and political courage the FLN leadership mobilize La Pointe in a series of audacious but bloody terrorist attacks. French residents respond with midnight bombings and racially motivated attacks.
 
As tensions increase, paratroopers are mobilized to crush the resistance. Mathieu places the Casbah under martial law with military checkpoints, raids and mass arrests. The FLN reacts with more assassinations and Mathieu unleashes a program of systematic torture and other forms of collective punishment. As attack and counterattack escalate, Casbah women join the FLN and detonate bombs in French civilian areas. But the intensifying French military terror and a failed general strike by the FLN ultimately take their toll and the rebellion is crushed in 1957.
 
The film ends, however, not with a pacified population but the outbreak, a few years later, of mass demonstrations and a renewed Algerian uprising that eventually forced France to sign the Evian Accords on March 19, 1962, and cede power to the FLN."
 
Source-- World Socialist Web Site, May 2004
     
     In August of 2003, The Pentagon reported that special operations chiefs decided to screen the film because of the ‘urban terrorist insurgency’.  The reason for this viewing was to show Pentagon employees similarities to the current war being waged in Iraq, particularly the Battle of Baghdad.  The Pentagon felt that the central idea of terrorism relates very well to one of the many themes in the movie.
    In reality, ‘The Battle of Algiers’ may be the most valuable as well as the most dangerous comparison because it shows the cruelty and effectiveness of France’s overall strategy; torture is a very efficient countermeasure to terror.  The Pentagon also stated that other reasons for the screening were to show  Special Ops and Low Intensity Conflict departments what resistance may be like, as Iraqi resistance began to intensify.  It has been debated that the real purpose of the screening was to encourage illegal and brutal attacks on prisoners held by the U.S. Army; However, this is more of a conspiracy theory than real fact, and only time will tell if this is the case.
   

 

 

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Created by 8th Period Gifted II
Brandywine Heights High School
Weston Fillman
Lauren Fairchild
Alex Wiltrout
Ashlan Luft

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