‘Algiers Confidential’ is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
By
Cat Woods

18 Nov 2021 - 11:27 AM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2021 - 11:27 AM

When two Germans are kidnapped in Algeria’s capital of Algiers, it sets in motion a series of events that ruptures the personal and political peace between nations and individuals in Algiers Confidential, based on Oliver Bottini’s novel Paix à leurs armes.

Working within his country’s embassy in Algeria, German Police Investigator Ralf Eley is called upon to find out what has happened to two German arms dealers who have been kidnapped and to cooperate with Algerian intelligence services. Eley is called into a meeting with Algerian security, including Algerian Prosecutor Amel Samraoui, with whom he has been having an illicit affair for a couple of years. Their relationship represents the messy, complicated, dangerous state of affairs between North African Algeria and surrounding nations.

Sunny and green, dotted with palm trees and opulent, sprawling white-walled villas, Algiers looks like a Spanish holiday resort town, with expansive views to the Mediterranean Sea. The camera often lingers on the lean, muscular physiques of tanned, dark-haired men as they pull their almost naked bodies from pools to intertwine their limbs with similarly beautiful men. It is seemingly an orgy of youthful, lusting men and women at all hours. But these youth, at the behest of their German and French millionaire bosses, are paid for via trade in guns and drugs, the sex is bait for blackmail, and violence is always lurking.

The complex political and historical drama is likely to appeal to fans of Homeland and False Flag (2 seasons currently streaming at SBS On Demand), both representing the inherent conflict of their respective countries, Turkey and Israel. In Algiers Confidential, the plot is electrified with manipulation, conflicts of interest, corrupt authorities and dangerous sexual attractions. It could be overwhelming, but rather, it is sophisticated and clever. It’s refreshing not to have stories and characters neatly defined and predictable. Real life is messy, Algeria is a complex place, Algiers Confidential is confronting.  

Not least, for its basis in reality. In 2018, Algeria was one of Germany’s largest arms customers, spending 818.2 million Euros on weapons. When arms dealer Peter Richter is taken hostage in the opening episode, the illicit trade in guns comes under the spotlight. Wealthy Europeans in their luxury villas thrumming with naked young Algerian men are exposed to authorities and the trade in secrets and lives becomes deadly. The thin veil of loyalty is ripped away when survival is at stake.

Algiers couldn’t be anything other than complicated and dangerous. It has roots stretching far and wide. The North African Berbers lived and traded from the port city before it was taken over by the Romans and renamed Icosium. Ownership passed between the Italians, North Africans, Spaniards and Turks before France invaded in 1830 and declared Algiers the capital of French Algeria. It remained so until 1962, after a savage independence struggle between the French Army and the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) resulted in Algeria’s independence. The city, still, is a melting pot of cultures in its citizens, its architecture and languages, and one in which terrorism and civil war are a daily reality. Armed religious groups, the army and the UN are in a constant power struggle.   

In Algiers Confidential, the dramatised struggles make for compelling plotlines. Eley, tasked with the whereabouts of his countrymen, is denied access to the site of their kidnapping and provided with background information in the form of heavily edited and blacked out documents. General Soudani, head of the Algerian Secret Service, insists that the perpetrators are Islamic terrorists. This theory is enthusiastically agreed to by his second in command, Toumi. Toumi soon proves himself a wry source of intelligence when he uncovers the affair between Eley and Samraoui and confronts Eley with knowledge of Samraoui’s unplanned pregnancy. 

 

The show, like Homeland and False Flag, is cleverly focused on the personal rather than trying to be educational, reductive or moralising. Richter admits in the first episode that his own daughter finds his line of work morally reprehensible, but the poker-faced Algerian he admits this to is unmoved. He has no children, nor interest in family; his passion is for high-powered guns.

Algiers Confidential is not a James Bond film. There’s no hero, helpless femme fatale nor victimless scenario. Eley, after all, is compromising his nation and the security of Algeria by having an affair with a Muslim woman under the nose of her uncle, General Soudani and the Algerian Secret Service. Samraoui is putting the integrity of her office at risk in compromising her professional standards and contemplating a life in Berlin.

Why all this risk for the sake of arms dealers, trading in deadly weapons worth millions of Euros? Why should viewers care? Because they are not pure villains, they are fathers and businessmen too. There is a question of respect between individuals, but a greater question of respect and peace between nations and cultures. And if questions of love, lust, power and corruption are not enough of a drawcard, then the marble-walled Spanish mansions, aquamarine Mediterranean sea, lithe-bodied young men and women in various states of undress in fervent embrace make for a riotously entertaining evening of viewing.

Algiers Confidential is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

  

 

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