Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

It was discomforting, almost disturbing, to watch The Battle of Algiers as a 21st-century American. It's as if the American military watched Gillo Pontecorvo's movie, and then decided, "That's how we're going to run the war in Iraq." There are so many similarities between the Algerian conflict with France, as portrayed in the movie, and the US' involvement in Iraq: the controversy over dubious "interrogation" techniques, the division of the native population by the occupation of a Western country, and the use of women and children by the population in suicide attacks. The Rialto re-release trailer of the film says that it was screened for the Pentagon before the invasion of Iraq; but apparently, no one learned anything, and history is doomed to repeat itself.

Pontecorvo's film portrays the struggle for an independent Algeria, mostly from the Algerian point of view. It is so sympathetic to the Algerians that at times, it seems almost like propaganda. The filmmakers are quick to say that all the footage was filmed for the movie; good thing they said that, because much of it is so impressive, so realistic, that I would have thought it was archival footage. The story focuses on the FLN, the Algerian liberation movement, and, if it focuses on any person in general, it's on Ali, a young leader of the group. But unlike most war films, there's no real focus on people or personalities; it is almost totally a documentary-like timeline of the important events in the revolution. This is both a good thing and a bad thing; there's certainly no melodrama, as a movie now would undoubtedly be, but there are also no real characters to cling to emotionally.

If you want to see how we might be looking at the current Iraqi conflict in 50 years, check out The Battle of Algiers. This was one of the first major films made after Algerian independence, and makes me look forward to the day we see a lot more films from Iraqi filmmakers, probably some about this current war.


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