NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 137

The war of liberation — still a ground-breaking subject? BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 135 Too little, because there are very few films or stolen moments that have made a real attempt to present a realistic view of this war. It is significant that few films have attempted to explain why these ‘heroes’ thrown straight into battle came to revolt and identify themselves with a determinism different from the one imposed upon them. The poignant and awkward sequences in Tolbi’s Noua (1972), the tragicomic ones in Hassan Terro, and the forgotten images of Moussa Haddad in Les enfants de novembre [The Children of November, 1975] or Liberation cannot make up for a cinema that wanted to portray a wonderful world where everything is rosy. An entire nation united in action, speaking with one another, being the only acceptable way… Algerian cinema has made too many war films and not enough films about the war of liberation. In so doing it has, perhaps in spite of itself, contributed to accentuate the alienation, in which the young, like Omar Gatlato, were plunged, first irresistibly, then uncontrollably, from the mid-seventies onwards. During the eighties and nineties, very few films dealt with the war of liberation. However, one that is noteworthy is La légende des sept dormants [Youssef: The Legend of the Seventh Sleeper, 1993] in which Mohamed Chouikh portrays a war veteran who takes up arms once again, convinced that the apparatchiks have spoiled the fruits of Independence. It is not surprising to notice the silence into which Algerian cinema has been plunged since the riots of October 1988. Caught out by its own failure, it became paralysed, seemingly incapable of changing direction and appreciating the newly emerged society. As a sign of the times, cinemas that had seated as many as 400 in 1962 went downhill, often converted into video cinemas; as if the public, overwhelmingly young, wished to turn its back once and for all on the motion picture adventure, a punishment for those who had hijacked it. Incidentally, the only film that dealt with the riots of 5 October 1988 was Novembre, by Malik Hamina. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Another interesting point of view is the one developed by the novelist Assia Djebar in La zerda ou les chants d’oubli [Zerda or the Forgotten Songs, 1982]. Zerda is of course the musical counterpoint of the Nouba. As for ‘oubli,’ it relates to the nineteen-thirties. The author chose archives relating to colonial festivities in the Maghreb of the period to point out the kinds of complex situations that arise when history and fiction are confused. Her very first film, La nouba des femmes du mont Chenoua (1979) recounted, in a style that is between delusion and historical evocation, the bond between the women in the Chenoua region and their Revolution. On reading L’Amour, la fantasia [Fantasia: an Algerian Cavalcade, 1993], one can measure the extent to which working with the cinema not only widened Assia Djebar’s field of observation, but also gave a new dimension to her writing. In this last account, the constantly visual approach resembles a staging of history from the French landing in Sidi Ferruch to the war of liberation. Sucked into the dream of an ideal society, Algerian films very quickly retreated into a vision hijacked by a single mindset, giving little scope for a young generation left to its own devices to identify itself with what was called the ideals of November. One wonders if the way in which the subject of the war of liberation was handled in general after 1962 is not partly to blame for fabricating a distorted and alienating image of the fln as the instrument and symbol of this formidable movement that shook Algerian society, and which intended, at the outset, to produce a profound change in mental and social attitudes. 135 It could be concluded that Algerian cinema has, to a large extent, been based on films about the war of liberation, while at the same time not being sufficiently represented by such films. Too much, given the hours of gratuitous vanity that have swamped a few moments of bits and pieces, snatched here and there, in favour of an apparently united front that had difficulty in hiding the profound cracks of the dream. 3/29/15 11:42 AM