NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 132

The Paris demonstrations of 17 October 1961 Algerian cinemas write history Colonial propaganda always tried to make people believe that the majority of Algerians weren’t followers of the fln. When, answering the call by the Front, tens of thousands of Algerians filled the streets demanding Independence, it became clear to the whole world that there was no longer any doubt about the outcome of the conflict. The subsequent repression took place in the absence of witnesses, without images, or almost so. For, thanks to a few freedom-loving people, a film managed to be made, revealing the police brutality against unarmed demonstrators. It is with the help of the Maurice Audin committee and with funds collected by the French Federation of the fln that October in Paris was produced. This film, now famous, recorded impressive scenes of the demonstrations that swept through the French capital in October 1961. René Vautier states in a document that the Maurice Audin committee proposed the production of the film to “practically all the ‘left-wing’ producers in France (including Truffaut) with the exception of the Communists — because it was important not to ‘brand’ the film with that tendency — and that all the ‘good souls’ of the left had refused to take it on.” It was therefore a ‘scientist,’ Jacques Panijel, who took responsibility for its production. The film contains damning images of the police repression against victims, thrown into the Seine or beaten to death, among them certain Frenchmen. October in Paris was banned in France and did not receive its certificate until 1973. Following the Independence of Algeria, two main forces competed for first place in the production of films: on the one hand, the regional station of ortf, abandoned by the majority of its technical staff and becoming the Algerian Radio and Television (rta) in October 1961, and on the other hand, the Audiovisual Centre of Ben Aknoun, where the so-called film directors of the frontiers or of liberty had assembled. Among them were Ahmed Rachedi and René Vautier. Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina was not slow in creating a citadel in the shape of the Algerian News Office (oaa). That same year, Mahieddine Moussaoui, the principal organiser of the cinema unit at the Ministry of Information of the gpra, was appointed Director General of the new national Cinema Centre that grouped together all cinematic activities, including the creation of the Algerian Cinematheque, largely the work of Mahieddine Moussaoui. Fifty years later, a young film director retraced the steps of Jacques Panijel. Yasmina Adi presented the preview of her film Ici on noie les Algériens [Here, we drown Algerians, 2011] in October 2011 in Algiers. Starting from an investigation into the disappearances of the husbands of Algerian women she had interviewed, Yasmina Adi builds up a damning feature movie to which she brings new evidence, and above all, displays a real talent as a documentary maker. While at the same time running the Cine-pops, René Vautier tried to undertake his great project Peuple en marche [A People on the March, 1963] with the sequences that he had filmed in the maquis and on the borders and others that he wanted to dedicate to the first years of Independence. René Vautier never succeeded in finishing his project and had to wait for the early seventies to produce his first feature film Avoir vingt ans dans les Aurès [To Be Twenty in the Aures, 1972], but under French auspices. 130 Two months after these October demonstrations, the great national demonstrations that swept through the Algerian towns in December 1961 put an end once and for all to colonial propaganda. To my knowledge, only Lakhdar Hamina has addressed this major episode of our history with his film December (1972). BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 130 3/29/15 11:42 AM