The Battle of Algiers: a Film within History

Fifty years on: the film that shaped the world's view of Algeria's fight for independence

The Battle of Algiers: a Film within History The Battle of Algiers is one of the most critically celebrated films of all time. Made in 1966 it documented Algeria's war for independence. Returning to the roots of the production and the personalities involved, this documentary explores what made The Battle of Algiers so profound and also some of the controversies. Was the truth it was intent on recounting warped by the proximity of the filmmakers to the subject?

The Battle of Algiers (1966) on IMDb

Reviews and More

Read about Gillo Pontecorvo's ground-breaking The Battle of Algiers here.

LaurelFesti­val Cinéma et Histoire, Tarou­dannt - Grand Prix
LaurelFesti­val du film Arabe d’Oran - Special Jury Prize
LaurelIDFA - Official Selection
LaurelGöte­borg Inter­na­tio­nal Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelEncounters Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelIts All True, Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro - Official Selection
LaurelBiennale de Barcelone - Official Selection
LaurelAddis international Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelHistory Film Festival Rijeka - Official Selection
LaurelRome Independent Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelThe Carthage Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelBlack Movie Film Festival Geneva - Official Selection

The Producers

Malek Bensmail - Director

Malek Bens­maïl was born in Cons­tan­tine, Alge­ria in 1966. Early in his youth, he shot films in Super 8. Since comple­ting his film studies in Paris and trai­ning at Lenfilm studios in Saint Peters­burg, he has devo­ted his filmma­king efforts to the docu­men­tary genre. All of his films relate to the history of his coun­try. His signature cinematography depicts the complex, sensitive contours of humanity. His aim is to use film as a medium for cultu­ral reflec­tion and compa­ri­son. His films have received criti­cal acclaim and have won awards at a number of festi­vals world­wide.

Making The Film

Director Malek Bensmail says, "The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo is a film that has marked my life and my work as a filmmaker. I have a special relationship with this film. I was born the year it was presented in Venice. Throughout my childhood in Constantine I would watch the film we called then “The Battle” or “Ali la Pointe”, the nickname of the hero of the film. The One, as we called the Algerian television, would broadcast this fiction every 1st November thus commemorating the start of the Algerian War for Independence.

So, as the years went by, Ali la Pointe and also Kader, the two protagonists of the film had become for us, kids, exceptional characters, the heroes of a war that we hadn’t known, the heroes of urban guerrilla warfare. On the day after, we would play the important scenes of the film as a game, in our schoolyard or in the streets of our neighbourhood. Role plays: FLN commandos against French paratroopers reciting the dialogues of the film that we knew by heart. For us, young Algerians, then later for everyone, the film became a must see, a mythical film as we all know.

On 19th June 1965 at dawn tanks were brought to different strategic points in the city. It didn’t raise any suspicion among the population who thought it was part of the shooting of the film The Battle of Algiers. Military units occupied the radio and the television and the staff arrested the president elect. Colonel Boumediene, who had financed the film and authorized the shooting, set up his Revolutionary Council, which would lead him to presidency. The Battle of Algiers became the scene of different events that all in all were to shape a major part of Algeria’s contemporary history and political future."

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