With a stirring score by director Gillo Pontecorvo and the great Ennio Morricone, the fifty year old film The Battle of Algiers has been given a 4K restoration and will soon be screened again on the big screen in selected cities across the country.
The film is set in Algiers, 1957: French paratroopers inch their way through the labyrinthine byways of the Casbah to zero in on the hideout of the last rebel still free in the city. Flashback three years earlier, as the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) decides on urban warfare. Thus begin the provocations, assassinations, hair-breadth escapes, and reprisals; Algerian women — disguised as chic Europeans — depositing bombs at a sidewalk café, a teenagers’ hang-out and an Air France office; and massive, surging crowd scenes unfolding with gripping realism.
Shot in the streets of Algiers, The Battle of Algiers vividly re-creates the tumultuous uprising against the occupying French in the 1950s. As the violence escalates on both sides, the French torture prisoners for information and the Algerians resort to terrorism in their quest for independence.
Battle’s startling relevance to today’s world events motivated the Pentagon to hold a much-discussed private screening for military personnel shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A flyer advertising the screening stated, “How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafés. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar?”
One of the most influential films in the history of political cinema, Battle of Algiers won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1966, was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Foreign Film, Best Director and Best Story and Screenplay), and was ranked as the 26 greatest film of all time in the 2012 Sight and Sound directors’ poll (it was also in the critics’ top 50), though it was long banned in France for its negative depiction of French colonialism.
With the exception of actor Jean Martin, as the French colonel brought in to quell the uprising, the cast is comprised mainly of non-professional actors who’d been involved in the Algerian struggle. Saadi Yacef, who produced Algiers, also stars as one of the leaders of the insurrection – a role he played in life as a general in the National Liberation Front. Yacef wrote the original treatment for the film – adapted from his book Souvenirs de la bataille d’Alger – in jail after he was captured by the French.
The Battle of ALgiers will run at the Film Forum in New York in its new 4K restoration from Friday, October 7 through Thursday, October 13, 2016. The film is also a selection of the NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2016 and will be released theatrically by Rialto Pictures on October 7 at New York’s Film Forum, Landmark’s Nuart in Los Angeles and E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., followed by a major city roll-out through the fall.
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
Approx. 121 min. | A Rialto Pictures Release
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo | Screenplay: Franco Solinas
Based on the book by Saadi Yacef
Cinematography: Marcello Gatti
Music: Gillo Pontecorvo & Ennio Morricone