Since its release in 1966, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers has become one of the most influential political films in cinema history. Recounting a key episode in the Algerian anti-colonial struggle, the film depicts the urban terror campaign waged by the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algiers in 1957 and the French army’s merciless – but ultimately futile – fight to regain control of the capital. As a document on guerrilla warfare, the film was a source of inspiration for the Black Panthers and the IRA. In 2003, as the US and the UK invaded Iraq, The Battle of Algiers was screened at the Pentagon, with employees invited to come and learn ‘how to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas.’ As a lesson in filmmaking, Pontecorvo’s documentary style, use of music and direction of non-professional actors has influenced a wide range of contemporary directors, including Paul Greengrass, Spike Lee, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Steven Soderbergh, Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino are among those who cite the film as a reference.
The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion of its national and transnational significance and legacy, both in film studies, and in terms of Franco-Algerian relations. Panellists are Natalya Vince and Walid Benkhaled of the University of Portsmouth (co-authors of a book in preparation on The Battle of Algiers); Neelam Srivastava, Senior Lecturer in Post-Colonial Literature at Newcastle University who interviewed Pontecorvo before his death and has published a number of articles on his work; and Martin Evans, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Sussex, and author of Algeria: France’s Undeclared War (Oxford University Press, 2012). An exhibition by artist Patrick Altes, a French artist born in Algeria, who was Leverhulme Artist in Residence in the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth in 2012-13 will also be available to view before the film screening (admission free, running 20 October-26 November, Eldon Building).
Entry to the film screening is free for students and concessions, but tickets need to be booked in advance. Book your ticket for the film screening here.