The latest film by Rachid Boucherab is as gripping as it is depressing. An epic portrayal of the French 'cafe wars' in which 5,000 people died, violence that accompanied the Algerian war of Independence. It is particularly poignant due to the current uprisings of the 'Arab Spring'.
It begins with the tale of a family having their land taken away from them in Algeria, then goes on to the horrors of the Setif massacre, when as many as 6,000 Algerians were gunned down in the city as they marched for independence in May 1945.
It does not flinch from the horrors of the independence movement, each side, the Algerian FLN and the French state, both using both torture and murder in a circle of escalating violence.
The film encouraged me to investigate this little known period in French history, and I soon learned of the massacres on both sides that resulted in almost 1 million deaths between 1954 and 1962, when independence was finally won. But at what cost? One of the brothers in the film weeps as he tells his mother how he has killed with his bare hands, and now he has become 'nothing but death'.
Violence leads to violence. However repressive the regime, non-violence is the only way to ultimately defeat it. Algeria, Libya, Syria will not be won with bullets, but by stubborn men and women who will become ungovernable. It may take longer than the bomb, but each human life is precious and our humanity should never be destroyed in the struggle for freedom.
Go and see this film if you have the chance - visually stunning and thought provoking. Its violence and 'maleness' are a fault (besides the mother, women are hardly given personalities in the film) but this is a worthy successor to 'Days of Glory', Boucherab's first major film, a moving Second World War movie told through the eyes of Algerians.