Durango Telegraph - DIFF hosts benefit screening of ?The Battle of Algiers?
DIFF hosts benefit screening of ?The Battle of Algiers?

Organizers of the new local independent film festival are heating up the event by hosting a politically heated classic movie. To raise money for its five-day affair in early March, the Durango Independent Film Festival will screen the premier political film of the 1960s, “The Battle of Algiers.”

That it is being shown on Pearl Harbor Day, when the United States memorializes the surprise and treacherous Japanese attack on the fleet center in Hawaii, is no coincidence, says Michele Malach, a DIFF organizer.

The somewhat obscure but revolutionary film is relevant for our time, Malach explains. In it, Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo re-enacts the clash between the French troops and the Algerian nationalists, whose National Liberation Front guerillas fight to secure independence. The film contrasts the French’s use of torture with the Algerian’s shocking use of bombs in soda shops. Filmed in 1965, the movie came at an emotional time during the Vietnam War. Over time, the movie has become a kind of instruction for what Malach calls “how not to fight native insurgencies.”

Then and now, “The Battle of Algiers” stands to show the dubious efficacy of using brutal and repressive tactics when fighting terrorism. It especially highlights the international fallout of leading a campaign of torture and murder. The film is powerful enough that in 2003, shortly after the United States declared victory in its fight against Iraq, special operations chiefs watched it at a Pentagon screening. The intent, government figureheads offered, was to study history of how the French had a tactical plan to fight terrorism but their strategy tanked.

Given the continuing U.S. occupation in Iraq, DIFF organizers felt the notorious film would draw viewers who enjoy such classics, as well as encourage discussion of the country’s current warfare.

“The parallels of this film (with the U.S.-Iraqi war) are so obvious as to be almost painful,” explains Malach.

After the film’s showing, a panel of local film critics and experts at Fort Lewis College will chat up the film and the current U.S. military approach to the War in Iraq.

– Amy Maestas

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