The Battle of Algiers Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi Director: Gillo Pontecorvo The Battle of Algiers is that rare movie - a war film that is politically intelligent, historically accurate and dramatically engaging. Directed by Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, it details the struggles of Algerian revolutionaries to free the country from French colonial rule in the Algerian war (1952 to 1956). An interesting twist results from the fact that although it has a relatively objective viewpoint, the film was co-produced by one of the victorious Algerian fighters, Yacef Saadi, who also acts in it. Algiers received a late burst of publicity a few years ago when it was screened at the Pentagon as part of a discussion on insurrectionist tactics and how to deal with them. The Battle of Algiers divides into two halves. The first shows the rise of the Algerian rebels (the FLN), their tactics, and their reasons for resorting to violence. The second focuses on the methods the French troops use to try to quell the revolution. Shot in grainy black-and-white in Algiers - sometimes at the location of real events - the film has the look of a documentary. All but one of the characters, the French commander Mathieu, are played by amateurs. Many of the Algerians are reliving real-life experiences in front of the cameras. The film depicts brutality by each side. Algerian women are shown blowing up a French bar that contains children. The French are shown torturing suspects and killing civilians in raids. The Algerians say that inducing terror among their enemies is the only way they can succeed in removing them from their country; the French are better armed and have war planes. The French win the Battle of Algiers but lose the war, as the horrific events unite the population behind the idea of revolution. Saadi originally approached Pontecorvo with a script based on his memoirs. Pontecorvo said this was too biased towards the Algerians, and hired Franco Solinas to write another version. An early draft of the script was bewilderingly written with Paul Newman in mind. But the final version is one of the most politically literate scripts ever written. It has been viewed both as a textbook on how to conduct terrorist activities, and a manual on how to deal with terrorism. Although it seems relatively objective today, it was banned in France for many years because of its portrayal of the French military. Similarities between the Battle of Algiers and the Iraq war are often mentioned. But there are differences, too. The FLN do want to found an Islamic state, but they are driven more by a desire for political independence than religious ideals. The FLN also possess the moral high ground, as they have the full support of the Algerian people, which cannot be said for al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The salient point of discussion is the use of torture by the French in the film. The French commander states that humane feelings have no place in war, and that torture is a price of success. To oppose this idea, Pontecorvo depicts grim and appalling torture scenes.