The Battle of Algiers

Just a few years after Algeria had thrown off the yoke of colonialism, the great Italian director Pontecorvo and company arrived in Algiers to make an unflinching replication of the struggle for independence. This is achieved through a black-and-white filmmaking style that perfectly reproduces the spontaneity of cinema verité yet retains an aesthetic control that is absolutely rousing. Based on the autobiography of Saadi Yacef, who costars, The Battle of Algiers follows the exploits of Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), a guerrilla leader of the National Liberation Front. La Pointe's coming to radical consciousness in the mid-fifties is counterpointed by the arrival of Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin), the meticulous leader of the French paratroopers who justifies torture as a necessary means to victory. Rendered free of sentimentality but with a humanity that embraces both sides, The Battle of Algiers stands as an illustrated handbook for the raising of a rebellion. Remarkably, this handbook still seems perceptive, useful, and up-to-date.

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