1 The Battle of Algiers: In context of the present One of the major problems of our time is terrorism. It is sadly a successful instrument that has been exploited by many terrorist groups right through the gory history of humankind. When confronted by immeasurable odds and crushing military force that cannot be overcome by conventional methods, alternative meanings of combat are created and acted out. Guerilla warfare has been witnessed in Kampuchea, Laos and Vietnam; and in recent days in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guerilla warfare tactic is meant to stir up a reaction, to provoke revolution among the people in general. When an act of terrorism takes place, the opponent will certainly bestow instantaneous retribution, the consequences of which the radical groups anticipate will persuade others to fall in line with their ideology. This is the sole purpose of the Algerian freedom fighters in the film, “The Battle of Algiers” by Gillo Pontecorvo. “The Battle of Algiers” is an unforgettable, acerbic and politically electric film which gives a distressingly accurate account of the freedom fighters’ fight against the colonial aspirations of France. The film is more of a documentary than a story with the filmmaker’s camera freely following the vicious fight and catastrophic losses through the narrow, crowded lanes and alleys of Algiers giving a true picture of the events that took place during the insurrection of 1957. The recreations in the film are spectacular and overwhelming. The images and the exceptional editing produce an emotional newsreel attribute. The city residents are bombed; many an innocent persons’ life is cut short and the French forces strike back. With Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin) in charge, the French adopt the timehonored approach, employing resemblances to interpret the adversary; the colonel wanting to kill the leaders of the freedom fighters’ group, the FLN, obliterating the organization. He believes that
2 his method, which he had earlier employed in other parts of the world, will lead to a foreseeable victory. However, this time, the colonel is not dealing with ragtag religious ideology fanatics but with an organization which has the spirit of basic freedom to motivate them. It is led by the legendary Ali La Pointe, powerfully played by Brahim Haggiag. Pontecorvo induces us to support the cause of the freedom fighters, yet he does not approve the means employed by the FLN to this end. The filmmaker portrays terrorism as an effective but immoral tool which sheds the blood of innocents. The cause of the freedom fighters, though just, is decadent because of the loss of innocent lives. This message is driven into the viewers of the film by the somber organ requiem, played after the attacks and bombings. In the present time, “Battle of Algiers” is more significant than ever before, as confirmed by the screening of the movie at Pentagon some time back. This has made people equate Algeria with Iraq and the American military with the atrocious occupation forces of France. Though there definitely is some resemblance yet an inference of this type is certainly invalid because the cause of the insurgents in Iraq is not a justifiable one. Superficially the association may seem obvious but the presence of American forces in Iraq is a matter which is more intricate than an unambiguous similarity. The lessons that can be drawn from the film, “The Battle of Algiers”, are that discovering notions and principles common to the opposing groups and having a dialogue can help the two sides reconcile and thus avoid needless shedding of blood. This groundbreaking film convincingly portrays brutality, persecution and use of substantial military power that predisposes any other viable alternative to resolve the conflict of interests between the FLN and
3 the French. The film delves into judicious issues, though in a special perspective. But its lessons can be tailored to lead us on the way to peaceful coexistence.