Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue

Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as PrologueThe Battle of Algiers, a 1966 film that poetically captures Algerian resistance to French colonial occupation, is widely considered one of the greatest political films of all time. But in the 50 years since its release, Sohail Daulatzai argues that the Battle of Algiers is still being waged, as the “War on Terror” intensifies and police powers proliferate from Gaza to Ferguson to Ayotzinapa and beyond.

In detailing the production history of the film and the political context of Third World decolonization in which it emerged, Sohail Daulatzai explores how the film was banned in several countries and embraced across the political spectrum — as a source of inspiration from leftist groups like the Black Panther Party, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Grammy Award winning group Rage Against the Machine, to a training manual for counterinsurgency by right-wing juntas in South America in the 1970s, to the Israeli military, and later, the U.S. Pentagon in 2003.

With a philosophical nod to Frantz Fanon, Daulatzai traces the film’s afterlife, and reveals a larger global story about how freedom dreams were shared and crushed in the fifty years since its release. As the War on Terror expands and the “threat” of the Muslim looms, The Battle of Algiers is more than an artifact of the past—it’s a prophetic testament to the present and a cautionary tale of an imperial future, as perpetual war has been declared on permanent unrest.

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