NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 130

Cameras of freedom The mass media weapon At a time when existentialism and a carefree attitude reigned in Paris, the French learned to their stupefaction that a few motley bands of fellaghas had attacked colonial positions in various parts of the country. Disinformation about the Algerian National Movement campaigns was generally the rule. Categorised, then put in a box labelled ‘events in Algeria,’ the insurrection became, one November night, a war of national liberation, to the surprise of those who had failed to learn their lesson from Diên Bien Phû. It is a well-known fact that an idea that does not circulate is an idea that dies a death. Audiovisual resources quickly proved to be the most efficient means, especially because television was becoming the dominant media in the West. For the Algerian revolution, television represented a network of information and, therefore, an invaluable propaganda tool. A line of convergence appeared between the sponsors and the creators of images, the go-betweens being the managers and intellectuals who were gathered in Tunis. Men like M’hamed Yazid, Redha Malek, Mahieddine Moussaoui, Ali Boumendjel, Dr Chaulet and his wife (among others), played a leading role in the mediatisation efforts of the war of liberation. By inviting the American and European television networks to cover events, the fln started scoring decisive points in favour of the global awareness of the conflict. The war in Algeria became an attractive subject for Western television news channels. The stand taken by Senator Kennedy in the United States, and by Enrico Mattei in Italy, doubtlessly had something to do with the role played by television, all the more so, considering the impact of real war images viewed inside people’s homes, practically for the first time ever. 128 The ferocious repression that followed the nationalist riots of May 1945 ended in convincing a group of resolute men — ‘ the historical leaders’ — to opt for the force of arms, as opposed to urns heavily marked by cheating and an electoral system that placed Algerians second in a two-tier college. Recourse to violence marked, for the insurgents, a break in dialogue with the former adversary and a rejection of the code of values to which intellectuals formed by the French system appeared to adhere to a certain extent. When the maquis [underground] ignited, the principal problem for the strategists of the revolutionary struggle lay with the search for arms. From 1954 to 1956, the movement grew through its propagation on the ground. It won some successes without the repercussions being felt beyond the borders of the Maghreb. That is, until the moment when the politicians of the fln [National Liberation Front] and the military strategists discovered that armed resistance was not enough, leading them to re-examine the instruments of combat and tailor them to their current needs. BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 128 The Algerian Revolution started by attracting and making use of foreigners. René Vautier was the first one. At the time, Vautier had created a school on the initiative of Abane Ramdane, who had broached the idea of setting up archives of the revolution by filming what would later represent the visual memory of wartime Algeria. On his return to Tunis, René Vautier teamed up with Pierre Clément who returned to Tunis in 1957 with complete image and sound equipment that he made available to the fln. He participated with Djamel Chanderli, another leading operator, in numerous productions in the maquis zones of the interior of the country as well as along the borders. It was also at the end of 1956 that Djamel Chanderli made his first report on the maquis of Wilaya II. In 1957-1958, René Vautier, with the help of other operators from the defa (East Germany), in particular, produced one of the most striking documentaries of the period: Algérie en flammes [Algeria in Flames, 1958]. During this period, Pierre Clément made two short film 3