The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers 15 S

May ’68: Film and the Revolution


Please note: This was screened in May 2018

Gillo Pontecorvo
Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi
120 mins, Subtitled, 1966, Algeria | Italy

One of the most influential political films in history, Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterful study of revolt vividly recreates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s.

From the labyrinthine Casbah, the Front de Liberation Nationale lead the struggle against their French colonisers, who enjoy lives of privilege in the boulevards of the ‘European’ city. As violence escalates on both sides, children shoot soldiers at point-blank range, women plant bombs in cafés, and French soldiers resort to torture to break the will of the insurgents, led by French Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin) who is pitted against his nemesis, the illiterate revolutionary, Ali (Brahim Hadjadj).

Shot in a gripping, quasi-documentary style on the actual streets of Algiers and using a cast of untrained actors, Pontecorvo manages to balance cinematic tension with grimly acute political insight. A case study in modern warfare, terrorist attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them, Battle of Algiers leaves the viewer both intellectually and emotionally convinced of the rightfulness of the liberation struggle.