NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 134

War Films or films telling the war? Since Independence, Algerian cinema has attempted to participate as best as it could in what might be described as writing the history of the liberation war. Dozens of feature films and hundreds of documents have been devoted to this subject. To some extent there have perhaps been too many films about the war of Independence? The decade from 1962 to 1972 was particularly marked by this type of cinema. A closer view reveals that while there were a great number of films dealing with the war, very few succeeded in proposing a reflection worthy of the events that led to radical changes in Algerian society. 132 During the ten years that followed Independence, Algerian cinema was stuck between fiction and reality, rarely managing to create a historical work or explain, for example, who had chosen to fight and above all, why. Practically all the films set their scene at the very heart of the war and finish in mid-action. Dialogue is generally sparse and the soundtrack makes more impact than speech, considering the lack of communication between the actors. The aim of these films was to glorify, not to analyse. They all bore the same motto: ‘Only one hero, the people’ and used a global approach. BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 132 The style of the films rarely took into account lessons learned from the European new wave. They remained steeped in the Hollywood model, which was both dominant and vacillating. This was the case with the best war films, such as ‘L’Opium et le baton [Opium and the Stick, 1971] by Ahmed Rachedi, La voie [The Way, 1968] by Mohamed Slim Riad, Patrouille à l’est [Patrol in the East, 1972] by Amar Laskri and Le vent des Aurès by Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina. Certain distinctions should be made however. When considering the number of themes chosen, one notices that during this first stage, two films were about childhood and only one about the participation of women in the Revolution. In 1964, the newly created cnc produced its first feature film, with Une si jeune paix [So Young a Peace, 1964] by Jacques Charby followed by L’Aube des damnés (1965) by A. Rachedi. These two films claimed to be directly influenced by the philosophy of Franz Fanon. Several more decades were to pass before Algerian cinema would once again deal with the cultural heritage of this Algerian thinker of Caribbean origin. As the fiftieth anniversary of Independence is about to be celebrated, it can be noted that several projects on the subject of Franz Fanon are being prepared both in Algeria and abroad. Made in 1968, by a group of young filmmakers, L’Enfer à dix ans [Hell at the Age of Ten, 1968] has the merit of reminding us that children participated in their own way in the armed revolution. The film limits itself to five years in the life of a little girl who takes no account of fear. La Bataille d’Alger [The Battle of Algiers], by Gillo Pontecorvo, is the only film from this period where the role of the Algerian woman in armed resistance is emphasised. Before 1962, Djamila l’Algérienne [Jamila, the Algerian Girl, 1958] by Youssef Chahine had tackled the same problem. However, these are two films made by an Italian and an Egyptian respectively. For the moment, Algerian filmmakers have a short memory. The more the filmmakers of this period tried to stick to reality, the more they presented a caricature, sometimes crude, refuted by all those who compared it to their own experience of events, everyone’s experience being different according to individual feelings. Algerian films purported to espouse reality and, in a manner of speaking, make a fiction out of it. In fact, the example of a pure fiction film is paradoxically Tahia ya Didou (1971) by Mohamed Zinet, whose initial aim, another paradox, was to make a documentary about the town of Algiers. The sequence about the blind man who recognises his old torturer in a restaurant remains one of the most striking historical and fictional synopses made in the sixties. 3/29/15 11:42 AM