Review Of “The Battle Of Algiers” Film

The Battle of Algiers is a political drama film created by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1966. It depicts the 1954-1957 revolt conducted by the National Liberation Front (FLN) that represented the Algerian people against the French government. The organization persuaded people to fight against colonialism for the country’s restoration and independence. FLN aimed to contribute to the creation of an independent state on the basis of religion and fundamental human rights and freedoms. While the struggles became more and more intense and the international community started to pay attention to this issue, the French government strengthened its responsive measures. Finally, FLN was defeated in 1957, however, inspired by the courage of its members and their readiness to sacrifice their lives for people’s freedom, Algerians organized massive protests that led to their country’s independence in 1962 (Old Films Revival Project, n.d.). Depicting real events, the film is nevertheless based on the memoirs of one of the FLN members. The Battle of Algiers may be regarded as the support of the global anti-colonial movement expressed through filmmaking.

The film focuses on multiple essential issues, including resistance, a war for independence, justice, and hope. In the 1950s, Algeria was a colony of France; guided by its imperial ambitions, the French government created inappropriate living conditions for the Arabian population of the country. Regarded as socially and racially inferior, Arabian Algerians were discriminated against and segregated from the state’s European population. This policy led to severe anti-colonial struggles between rebels who fought for the country’s independence and French authorities who acted on the basis of an imperial mindset and refused to leave their colony.

In order to create a fair representation of the war, Pontecorvo shows that the actions of both parties are justified for particular reasons. The film demonstrates the attitude of the French government toward Algerians, explaining their desire to fight against oppression. The contrast related to this attitude is also supported by light – while wide and narrow streets of European quarters are brightly lit, the labyrinths of the Casbah are always in the dark. At the same time, the message of France, expressed through Colonel Mathieu, refers to logical actions designed to restore order in the case of struggles and terrorist attacks (Old Films Revival Project, n.d.). In addition, this approach justifies tortures that are regarded as unacceptable by the media. Thus, when a journalist expressed his concerns related to the expediency of such methods, Mathieu responded that if they could not deny the fact that France should stay in Algeria, the community should be ready for the necessary consequences of counterterrorist measures.

At the same time, the film clearly demonstrates that violence causes more violence creating a vicious circle. In the beginning, FLN wanted to initiate fair talks with the French government dedicated to the recognition of Algerians’ right to self-government. The members of this organization initially targeted policemen as the representatives of law or Algerians who betrayed rebels. They did not kill women and children, cared about the population facing attacks, and preferred strikes instead of open protests to address the international community and show unity to it. Moreover, the members of FLN decided to purify the population affected by official propaganda and prohibited alcohol consumption and drug use in the territory of the Casbah. However, when the actions of authorities, such as new policies related to medications and health care and the Casbah’s segregation and bombing, became more violent, the FLN members started to use more violence as resistance as well (Old Films Revival Project, n.d.). They committed terrorist acts by shooting from cars, leaving bombs in European quarters’ public places, and causing the deaths of multiple civilians, including women and children.

From a personal perspective, The Battle of Algiers may be regarded as an excellent work of art characterized by impressive acting, directing, and background music. Meanwhile, it contains important lessons that do not lose their topicality in the present day as well. First of all, it shows that hope and courage may inspire millions of people, and an oppressed population will triumph as its fight is just. The majority of Algerians understood that their lives were miserable under the governance of France, however, they were afraid to act. However, the selflessness of the FLN members gave incentives to them to exclaim against oppression.

At the same time, the film stands against the majority of stereotypes related to Islamic terrorism, explaining the genuine reasons for opposition between the West and the East as anti-colonial violence against exploitation. In addition, the events depicted in the film resemble the subsequent situations referred to Western policies in Vietnam, Angola, Afghanistan, and Iraq, along with minorities’ fight for equal human rights. It explains the consequences of oppression and provides an insight from the perspective of oppressed people. However, at the same time, the film suggests thinking about the consequences of any revolution and its expediency as one of the characters mentions that nothing will finish with victory and there will be multiple problems that will require appropriate solutions.


Old Films Revival Project. (n.d.). The Battle of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo | 1966 [Video]. YouTube.