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Battle of Algiers, The (3d)

Director(s): Gillo Pontecorvo

Theatrical Release: 1966

Cast: Brahim Haggiag, Yacef Saadi, Jean Martin, Tommaso Neri, Fawzia el Kader, Michele Kerbash

Genre(s): Drama, politics, Thriller, war, Criterion Collection, Dean's List

Countries: Algeria, Italy


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Running Time: 121m.

This highly political film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France took "Best Film" honors at the 1966 Venice Film Festival. The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957. Three years earlier, Ali was a petty thief who joined the secretive organization in order to help rid the Casbah of vice associated with the colonial government. The film traces the rebels' struggle and the increasingly extreme measures taken by the French government to quell what soon becomes a nationwide revolt. After the flashback, Ali and the last of the FLN leaders are killed, and the film takes on a more general focus, leading to the declaration of Algerian independence in 1962. Director Gillo Pontecorvo's careful re-creation of a complicated guerrilla struggle presents a rather partisan view of some complex social and political issues, which got the film banned in France for many years. That should not come as a surprise, for La Battaglia di Algeri was subsidized by the Algerian government and with the exception of Jean Martin and Tommaso Neri as French officers the cast was entirely Algerian as well. At least three versions exist, running 135, 125, and 120 minutes. Robert Firsching (allmovie.com)

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Criterion Collection 3-DVD Set #249 Special Features:

Disc 1

! New high-definition digital transfer of The Battle of Algiers, supervised by cinematographer Marcello Gratti with restored image and sound and enhanced for widescreen televisions

! 1992's Return to Algiers with director Gillo Pontecorvo and his son

! Theatrical and re-release trailers

! Poster gallery

Disc 2

! "The Making of The Battle of Algiers - an exclusive new documentary

! "The Dictatorship of Truth" - a 37-minute documentary narrated by Edward Said

! "Directors on The Battle of Algiers" with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh and Oliver Stone

Disc 3

! "The Battle of Algiers and History" - a new documentary featuring interviews with historians Alistair Horne, Hugh Roberts and Benjamin Stora, former FLN members Zohra Drif-Bitat, Mohammed Harbi and Saadi Yacef, and writer and torture victim, Henri Alleg

! "Etats d'Armies" - a 30-minute excerpt from Patrick Rotman's 3-part documentary, L'Ennemi Intime

! "How to Win the Battle But Lose the War of Ideas" - a conversation about the contemporary relevance of The Battle of Algiers between former National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism Richard A. Clarke, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Michael A. Sheehan, and Chief of Investigative Projects for ABC News, Christopher E. Isham.
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