The fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) offers an occasion to challenge commonplaces about the film and to show that there remains much to be clarified about its character. Typically discussed in terms of its debt to Italian neorealism, The Battle of Algiers can also be related to Italian colonial cinema made during the fascist period. The film recounts the genesis of the Algerian nation, but it is at the same time a film about the end of the French empire. Meanwhile, an analysis of location in the film's little-discussed coda shows The Battle of Algiers to be the first in a long line of banlieue cinema—that is, it is a film that presciently anticipates postcolonial conditions on the territory of France itself.
The Battle of Algiers at Fifty: End of Empire Cinema and the First Banlieue Film
Alan O'Leary is Associate Professor in Italian and Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds. He has published several books and numerous articles on Italian cinema in Italian and English, notably the monographs Fenomenologia del cinepanettone ([Phenomenology of the Italian Christmas Film], Rubbettino, 2013), Tragedia all'italiana: Italian Cinema and Italian Terrorisms 1970–2010 (Peter Lang, 2011), and Tragedia all'italiana: Cinema e terrorismo tra Moro e memoria ([Tragedy Italian Style: Cinema and Terrorism between Moro and Memory], Angelica Editore, 2007); he also co-founded the annual film issue of The Italianist. His current project is “Italian Cinemas / Italian Histories” (for information, see http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/italian-cinemas-italian-histories/about/). He is also working on a monograph on film and history in Italy and another on The Battle of Algiers exclusively. He notes that his next project is devoted to the “trivial.”
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Alan O'Leary; The Battle of Algiers at Fifty: End of Empire Cinema and the First Banlieue Film. Film Quarterly 1 December 2016; 70 (2): 17–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.70.2.17
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