Portrayal Of French Algeria'S Uprisings In The Battle Of Algiers

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Response to Pontecorvo’s Film
  3. Conclusion


In Gillo Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers, the suppression of French Algeria is explored through numerous urban uprisings in the late 1950s. The film is ancient and rather extreme in its portrayal, yet it provides excellent critique of guerrilla insurgency. Few of today’s Hollywood filmmakers pay close attention to how Western colonization fosters terrorism, and many filmmakers ignore the fact that Western nations still exert control over the Middle East. Pontecorvo’s film is an epic documentary that evokes many questions about terrorist insurgency and provides valuable insight into the implications of Western colonialism.

Response to Pontecorvo’s Film

Pontecorvo uses his filmmaking expertise to examine the Algerian struggle for independence from the French Republic in the mid twentieth century. This film exposes Western imperialism, which was used to suppress terrorism and resistance among Algerian natives. This film outlines the extraordinary rendition tactics of abduction and extra judicature of individuals to undisclosed locations, as well as the use of torture in middle-east countries. Pontecorvo portrays the Algerian National Liberation Front’s fight for independence to free Algiers from French rule. Pontecorvo sympathizes with Algerian revolutionists, perceiving this movement as the foundation of a more significant global movement against colonialism. Many of the film’s shooting locations are significant to Algeria’s history, such as the Algerian marketplaces and narrow Casbah sections that were inhabited by traditional Muslims. Pontecorvo elicits a feeling of realism that is seen in a documentary, which grants his film innate legitimacy.

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In The Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo presents members of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) as men of valor and freedom who resort to terrorist approaches in order to mitigate French suppression. In one scene, members of the FLN host a cleansing ceremony to deliver Casbah from prostitution and drugs, an act which the French government tolerates. This purification ceremony is meant to prepare the Muslims for an upcoming fight towards freedom.

After the purification, Muslims begin killing French police officers, who are the most visible targets in the film. Pontecorvo makes a critical point that the Algerian revolution is not directed towards French civilians. In response to the FLN’s actions, the French bomb the Casbah, resulting in the death of innocent families in their sleep. Consequently, the Muslim send women dressed as Europeans with basket bombs to blast certain locations such as Air France. Pontecorvo shows the death and destruction wrought by bombings, appearing to defend some terrorist tactics by openly glorifying them.

Pontecorvo suggests that France used counterinsurgency torture to win the Battle of Algiers, which eventually led to the loss of Algeria as a French colony. In the film, the French government sends paratroopers to Algiers under Colonel Mathieu’s command. Mathieu crushes one of the FLN general strikes and vouches for torture until the eventual destruction of the FLN’s leadership. Mathew later declares the French victory in the Battle of Algiers in 1957. However, the French victory comes at a high and unworthy cost, considering that the Algerian masses rise again in the 1960s. The film’s epilogue shows how the people of Algiers struggle violently against French oppression, consequently leading to Algeria’s freedom in 1962. The conclusion to this epic documentary suggests that the FLN promote vanguardism, which raises the consciousness of Algerians to draw larger masses of people into this fight against the French government, who is their common enemy. In this light, the film raises many questions on whether torture is the best technique for combating terrorism.

Pontecorvo’s film is a product of the worldwide anti-imperialist response that occurred in the 1960s. This film connects some of the struggles of Algeria with those in countries like Latin America, Angola, and Vietnam. The film reveals that many young Westerners identified with the revolts against colonial acts. In 1968, there was a radical alliance in France between workers and students which nearly toppled the French government. These incidences depict that the young of that era were genuine believers in radical change. The Algerian Revolution against imperialism inspires audiences to challenge political authority, which is an aspect that was creating many controversies during that time. Pontecorvo’s film seems to encourage a domestic uprising and offers tactical advice to revolutionaries on how to overcome oppressive political regimes.

The Battle of Algiers exemplifies the imperialistic culture in existence during the days of the Algerian revolution, which can be connected to contemporary societies. When looking at some of the policies applied by America to nations like Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people view Afghanistan as a target for Western imperialism, considering President Obama’s many efforts to make it NATO’s ally. Despite the concern with Muslim nations, such efforts are bearing little to no significance toward winning the confidence of the Afghan people. This lack of legitimacy causes a disparity between Western nations and the Middle East, which fuels an imperialistic narrative between nations. The Battle of Algiers offers an astute example of how many colonized people were at odds with Western culture, with many impacts of colonization still prevailing today


The Battle of Algiers is a cinematic portrayal of Algeria’s struggle for independence in the 1950s and 1960s. The film includes several accounts and historical details, which focus primarily on the FLN insurgency and opposition to the French. However, the film does not provide information on what happens to the Algerian government after independence. This film promotes meaningful discussions on intense and deeply divisive matters: leftist politics, national liberation wars, imperialism, and colonialist cultures. It offers explanations on the root causes of contemporary issues including torture, terrorism, and the continual of imperialistic endeavors in foreign relationships, as seen in the case of America and Afghanistan.

Overall, Pontecorvo seems to be in support of the FLN revolutionaries and their cause towards gaining independence. Despite the valid aspirations of the revolutionists, some of their ideologies may not hold true today, as many seek a world without violent revolution. The film presents the foundations for anti-colonial movements and explains that some inhumane measures, such as torture, could never be successful in combating the aspirations of colonized people.

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