In 1954, Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag) is a petty thief from the Casbah, the poorest Arab quarter of Algiers. Enraged at the French colonialist treatment of his countrymen he joins the FLN (National Liberation Front) and, after his trustworthiness has been tested, soon finds himself engaged in a guerilla campaign, becoming one of the four leaders of the movement. Leader of the French forces is Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin) a rational and intelligent man who resorts to ruthless tactics, including torture, in order to crush the revolt.
 

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A depiction of the Algerian people's struggle to liberate themselves from France.

A few years ago and with thirty-four other Italian filmmakers of varying ages, Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo took to the streets of Genoa, trusty video camera in hand, in order to document the protest movement against the G8 globalisation summit which in the end shut the city down. As he was quoted in Sight and Sound Magazine, ?It is our duty to roll up our sleeves and work with others on such an important occasion, when the quality of life in the future is being decided?.Pontecorvo was aged 79 at the time so it almost goes without saying that his commitment to political filmmaking will never die, and neither will his extraordinary neo-realist feature The Battle of Algiers from 1966. Once banned by the French government for its stark portrayal of the French ?invaders?, The Battle of Algiers is Pontecorvo?s ?recreation of the Algerian uprising against the French occupying forces of the 1950s?. The Battle of Algiers is a stark, haunting look at the architecture of military occupation and the strategies for armed resistance, a film that was not only instructive to the Black Panther movement of the 1970s, but more recently to the American military. Key Pentagon personnel watched The Battle of Algiers prior to the recent invasion of Iraq. (It is a wonder then that they didn?t run screaming for the hills instead).The film?s emotional and political power very much lies in its execution. It was partially shot in Algiers, bringing a haunting authenticity to the viewing experience. The hand-held cameras, precise lighting for black and white, and shots that dwell upon the faces of both oppressed and oppressors make it impossible to not feel the sacrifice of life when it happens. Ennio Morricone?s exquisite score ? which vacillates between melodically tragic and a primal call-to-arms ? is one of his best, yet struck before he had made a name for himself on the ?spaghetti westerns?, the films that would make him a musical icon of the cinema. But it is the deployment of non-actors - many of whom were actually Algerian nationals who had participated in the eventual overthrow of the French after a hundred years of occupation ? that makes Pontecorvo?s film so enduring. The desperation, indignity and hope enacted in front of his cameras for this story is almost too much to bear. War is merely a matter of ideology declares Jean Martin as Col. Matthieu (incidentally the only professional actor in the cast), but he will do everything to reinforce it. ?Show over?? revolutionary leader Djafar (producer/screenwriter Yacef Saadi) asks him after being paraded in front of the press. This film has echoes still being felt to this day, as the recent occupation of Iraq and subsequent pictures of POW torture attests.When the phrase ?they don?t make them like this anymore? was born it surely must have been for The Battle of Algiers. It is an important, complex and poetic film that shows both the horror of occupation and terrorism, yet still comes down on the side of right.