Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Battle of Algiers, aka, how history repeats itself

Yesterday I read an article on nytimes.com about how the Casbah, the old residential quarters in Algiers is crumbling. It is a Unesco world heritage site and probably is a piece of history worth preserving, but that is not the subject of this post.

The article sent my mind back to where I had encountered the Casbah last; in the riveting movie "The Battle of Algiers". It is a french movie made in 1965 by the italian director Gillo Pontecorvo that deals with the events of Algeria's struggle for independance from France. The movie is set in 1957, when violence erupted in Algeria, with Algerian guerillas battling french police in the narrow, winding streets of the Casbah.

It is not a pleasant movie. Pontecorvo is primarily a documentary director and that is the style of this movie as well, in fact it is difficult to believe the scenes are enacted and not real.

While the movie was shot 41 years ago and is about an incident nearly 50 years old, what makes it relevant is the fact that the same story is being replayed right now, in many parts of the world. The clash of cultures and religions, of the occupied and the occupiers, seems to follow the same story lines over and over. Ali La Pointe, the young Algerian guerilla, and Col. Mathieu, the French police chief, would not look out of place in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course there are differences between Algeria and Iraq or Afghanistan, but the similarities are much more.

All said, a movie surely worth watching, even without the political relevance. Just the starkly real style of acting and direction make it watchable.

PS: Saadi Yasef, who plays the guerilla leader Djaffar in the movie, was exactly that in real life!!!

- Avan


Anonymous Aval said...

is it a black and white movie? you know i am enjoyment-blind to black and white :(

19 December, 2006  
Blogger avan said...

So it is..

19 December, 2006  

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