The 1966 film The Battle of Algiers produced by Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers) is based on the Algerian War of Independence, in attempts of gaining independence from France (Algerian War). It is clearly depicted how problematic this film was and the problems contextualized. One of the major problems this film showed was the dehumanization of the colonial experience endured by the Arab Algerians in Algeria. Of the many conflicts, Algerians endured them by the hands of the French. A major conflict that they were faced with in multiple ways was the persistent social injustice and oppression. After having endured enough of the maltreatment from the French and struggling for independence from French colonialism the FLN; a small group of rebels began carrying out attacks on French authority figures such as policy officers. In turn this resulted in the Arab quarters getting searched as well as enforcing curfews, implementing checkpoints, and requiring Arabs to carry identification cards on themselves. This rebel group was led by Ali La Pointe with the goals of ridding the French from their country. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu was the one who lead French in this war.
Many Europeans felt a sense of superiority over the Arabs, this lead to them having an arrogant attitude towards them. From this superior attitude, the French were always sure to remind the Arabic population that because of them they are the reason as to why they have civilization and are successful. By doing this, this was the way the French tried to keep the Arabic’s from rebelling against them. An example of dehumanization used in the film is when Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu uses the killing of a tapeworm as a metaphor when explaining the way, he or anyone would defeat the rebel group (FLN), which would be by decapitating it. When comparing this metaphor, he went on to reason that the same way to defeat this group is by decapitating Ali La Pointe.
Algerians were commonly degraded by the French. By calling them names and being racists towards the Algerians, not only did they purposely belittle them but they also dehumanized them. The French blatantly ignored and disrespected their religious values by naming one of their operations after an alcoholic beverage. This is one of the major things that are not allowed by no means in the Islam religion and Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu completely ignored that.
Going in hand with the French feeling a sense of superiority, the living conditions of the two varied drastically; from having separate locations, different commodities and completely different environments. Which this was quite obvious. Per usual, the Europeans lived more of a lavish life compared to the Arabic’s. The Europeans lived by the sea in a city that was more up to date and with amenities such as cars, and shopping stores. Whereas, the Arabic’s lived in old run down and impoverished areas. Here you have the French living a lush life and then you have the Arabic’s living a completely different life. This living condition just went to show how oppressed the Algerians were.
The goal of the FLN was to gain freedom back from France. Meanwhile the goal of the French was to get the people of Algiers to claim France as their motherland, be ruled by the French as well as pledge their loyalty to France. As Richard Fogarty said, “Revolutionary France was the birthplace of a new concept of national identity that closely linked the idea of citizenship with service to and defense of the state in the military” (Race and war in France: colonial subjects in the French Army). Some of the people of the Algiers did so and some refused to do such thing. The ones who refused to do so were jailed. The unwillingness of the Algerians to compromise not only infuriated the French but as well as threatened them, leading to the both sides becoming aggressive towards one another.
Many issues have been addressed in this film which vary widely. Not only are the Algerians fighting for their independence from France but the use of terror violence is inevitable by both sides. Especially the rebels, around the topic of independence they were willing to do whatever it took to gain there independence even if it meant to kill. Through all the frustration and pain there was an initial act of violence by the FLN against a French security officer in the city, to which the FLN did indeed claim responsibility for this very public act against an authority figure. Algerian women were influenced to take a part within this freedom movement, and without them the war would not have lasted the long eight months that it did. So much so, that after French citizens bombed Casbah they took it upon themselves to disguise themselves as European or “French” women in order to cross the town’s checkpoint so they could leave bombs in public places where French citizens were expected to be. They planted bombs in the two cafes, club and as well as the Air France office.
Not only did the rebels use terrorism to their own benefit but so did the military when it benefited them best such as times in torture and manipulation. Shockingly, the French had decided that torture was indeed justifiable and the most ethical thing to do.
By using violence, the rebel group (FLN) had hopes that this would hope to inspire a mass revolt amongst the Algerians who did not want to part take. This in fact did not happen. Instead what had happened was, during the first ten months this conflict was limited to only rural eastern Algeria and nowhere else. By the summer of 1965, the mass revolt did start to spread to the rest of the country not just eastern Algeria.
The initial start of killing many innocent civilians started with that one action taken by the French police officer bombing the home of a suspect in Casbah and in the process killing innocent civilians. After that action, the NFL started to deliberately target civilians, soldiers and police officers as well.
By attacking civilians and authorities or using terrorist techniques and tactics, the FLN was doing what they believed would to free their country from French rule. There is great success in causing terror amongst the people, there is no arguing that point. Although the FLN has achieved what they were intending to fulfil, in the process they were targeting and killing more innocent civilians instead of soldiers. Which poses the question: “How can this be morally and ethically acceptable? And to what extent is it acceptable?” (The Question of Torture).