Gillo-Pontecorvo

10

You know, Ali, it’s hard enough to start a revolution, even harder to sustain it, and hardest of all to win it. But it’s only afterwards, once we’ve won, that the real difficulties begin.

The Battle of Algiers (1966) Gillo Pontecorvo

One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s. 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. Shot on the streets of Algiers in documentary style, the film is a case study in modern warfare, with its terrorist attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them. Pontecorvo’s tour de force has astonishing relevance today. - from back cover

via The Battle of Algiers (1965, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo)

“Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the Pentagon recently held a screening of The Battle of Algiers, the film that in the late 1960’s was required viewing and something of a teaching tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the Vietnam War.

Back in those days the young audiences that often sat through several showings of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 re-enactment of the urban struggle between French troops and Algerian nationalists, shared the director’s sympathies for the guerrillas of the F.L.N., Algeria’s National Liberation Front.

The Pentagon’s showing drew a more professionally detached audience of about 40 officers and civilian experts who were urged to consider and discuss the implicit issues at the core of the film — the problematic but alluring efficacy of brutal and repressive means in fighting clandestine terrorists in places like Algeria and Iraq. Or more specifically, the advantages and costs of resorting to torture and intimidation in seeking vital human intelligence about enemy plans.

As the flier inviting guests to the Pentagon screening declared: ‘How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.’”

-“What Does the Pentagon See in Battle of Algiers?”, The New York Times (via) (photo via)

5

just saw The Battle of Algiers on the big screen, sat by myself, cried for dear life into my coffee basically the whole time

wikipedia and critics say “Pontecorvo resisted any temptation to romanticise the protagonists” but, somehow, the lack of humanizing personal details, the aesthetic of documentary realism (and subsequent implied claim to “objectivity”), and the depiction of some of the colonizing French as innocent (and the fact that the bombers see & know this) made the revolutionaries seem like super fucking dreamy romantic heroes to me

revolutionary groups & state repressive agencies alike have studied and praised the film (it was supposedly andreas baader’s favorite movie)— which, if nothing else, is a good reminder not to doubt the power of representation i guess? also: one of the female cafe bombers, Zohra Drif, is the widow of a former Algerian president and is still in the country’s upper house of parliament, weird