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The Battle of Algiers

Year: 1966
Production Co: Igor Film
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Writer: Gillo Pontecorvo/Franco Solinas
Cast: Jean Martin, Brahim Haggiag

An almost forgotten film ripe for rediscovery and critical acclaim in the post September 11 world as it depicts a world we're all very familiar with now and proves the adage about how the more things change...

Whether you see it as an Iraq or Palestine parable, it's the age-old story of two sides of a war - the poorer locals who see themselves as freedom fighters trying to cast out colonial overlords and the militarily superior occupiers insisting they're battling terrorist elements of an otherwise grateful population.

The film's power comes in its unflinching depiction of the practices and spoils of war, including the killing of innocents and a montage of torture sequences that was probably essential viewing at the Pentagon to prepare for Abu Graib prison.

During France's occupation of Algeria, cells of organised resistance spring up, carrying out violent protest we know only too well like setting off bombs in soda cafés full of teenagers.

In response, the French send in an accomplished military commander to orchestrate the operation of flushing the resistance leaders out. We see the fears and hopes for victory from both sides given equal weight, an omnipotent view of people that says reams about how we all want to same thing even while we see our 'enemies' as 'evil'.

There's a narrative here but a strong documentary style thanks to the many long establishing shots that depict life in 60s Algeria under colonial rule. But what really resonates are the hallmarks that touch nerves half a century later (as if the filmmakers could see into he future) of checkpoints, torture, kids with guns and oppressed Arabs.

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