The Battle of Algiers

1. Why did the film, The Battle of Algiers, cause controversy in
France? (pg. 285)
2. Why would a filmmaker choose to recreate a historical
event? Do you think it is to increase public knowledge of the
event, or is it for pure entertainment? Explain! What about
The Battle of Algiers?
3. Does a filmmaker have a responsibility to stay truthful to a
story? What if the event remains politically sensitive?
4. THINKER: The Battle of Algiers has seen a revival because of
the similarities with America’s involvement in Iraq post2003. What similarities do you notice between the Algerian
War and the war in Iraq?
Film Synopsis
One of the most influential political films in
history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo
Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the
tumultuous Algerian struggle for
independence from the occupying French in
the 1950s. As violence escalates on both sides,
children shoot soldiers at point-blank range,
women plant bombs in cafés, and French
soldiers resort to torture to break the will of
the insurgents. Shot on the streets of Algiers in
documentary style, the film is a case study in
modern warfare, with its terrorist attacks and
the brutal techniques used to combat them.
Pontecorvo’s tour de force has astonishing
relevance today.
Film Info
Ali La Pointe – one
of the FLN's most
trusted and loyal
lieutenants in
Algiers; becomes
FLN commander
Saadi Yacef - one of the leaders
of the FLN, also their military
chief in Algiers; currently a
Senator in Algeria (The
character El-hadi Jafar is based
on his life & involvement)
Film concentrates on 1954-1957 and is about
the organization of a guerrilla movement and
the methods used by the colonial power to
annihilate it.
Focuses on when the guerrilla fighters
regrouped and expanded into the casbah,
only to face a systematic attempt by French
paratroopers to wipe them out.
The story begins and ends from the
perspective of Ali la Pointe, a petty criminal
who is politically radicalized while in prison
and then recruited by FLN commander Elhadi Jafar (Saadi Yacef, dramatizing a
character based on himself)
Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu, the paratroop
commander, is the principal French character
After the Algerian War, Yacef helped produce
Gillo Pontecorvo's film The Battle of Algiers
(1966). Yacef played a character modeled on
his own experiences in the battle.
The film is inspired by Souvenirs de la
Bataille d'Alger, by Saadi Yacef, the campaign
account of an FLN military commander
The character of Colonel
Philippe Mathieu, is widely
believed to be a composite
of Marcel Bigeard, Jacques
Massu and other
prominent officers
Marcel Bigeard – Lieutenant
General of French troops in
Algerian War (launched
counter-terror campaign)
Aerial view from 1935,
showing the juncture of
the casbah (on the
right) and the
French quarters
(on the left).
Barricades Week
The Casbah,
where the film
was shot.
Filmed in black and white and
experimented with various
techniques to give the film the look
of newsreel and documentary film
• It won the Golden Lion at the
Venice Film Festival
• Nominated for three Academy
Awards, including Best
Screenplay, Best Director and
Best Foreign Language Film.
• In 2010, the movie was ranked
sixth in Empire magazine's "The
100 Best Films Of World
Cinema” and 120th in the top
500 films of all time.