The Battle of Algiers – 1966

Watching The Battle of Algiers is almost like reading yesterday’s New York Times – Arabs coming to terms with Western culture, and coming to terms with their own need for freedom and self-determination. Not reaching a final destination – if that is even possible – but pushed, pulled, willed by something that the movie gives up trying to explain – toward some end that is impossible to see. It is certainly a sobering and sad and mystifying message, delivered by a movie that has production values that can probably never ever be duplicated. It is worth watching the movie just for that alone. Just a few years after the Algerians throw off the colonial power (France), the director essentially creates a theatrical (as opposed to strictly historical) re-enactment of the cataclysm, in the city of Algiers, using the citizens of Algiers as actors. What if someone proposed doing that in Iraq or Afghanistan or Egypt or Syria – it boggles the mind. Yet it was done, and done magnificently well.

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