days of glory

August 14, 2008

This film by French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb was highly rated by Time Out London when I was visiting a couple of years ago, and has been on my to-see list even since. I finally found it on DVD and one night at the cabin after dinner we all settled down to watch it.

The lame English title doesn’t really do justice to an excellent war film with a colonial twist. Four Algerians enlist to fight for France in World War II but soon discover that the promise of liberty, equality and fraternity doesn’t hold for them neither on the larger scale nor small – tomatoes at dinner only if you were white. As they make their way with their regiment though Italy to Alsace and Provence, fighting the war takes on an extra hollowness given the way La Patrie views and treats them. Dying for a country that doesn’t see you as a true child made winning the war just seem depressing and sad.

In its closing credits, the film noted that pensions to African soldiers were stopped after independence of their countries. As a coda, President Chirac reversed this after a private screening of the film and raised their allowance to equal that of their French counterparts. Algerian-French culture has since developed its own strong identity, but acceptance by mainstream still remains a large problem, as the writer Faïza Guène describes.

Her first book, Kiffe Kiffe Demain, is written in verlan, back-to-front Arab-influenced slang about life in the Courtillières high rise estate of Paris has been a storming success, yet in this angry interview she describes the stark reality of discrimination in France today. I’m very sorry I can’t read her book in the original verlan, as it seems like the English translation would take so much away from it.


One Response to “days of glory”

  1. Tracy Says:

    Will have to check this out. Just watched Paris Je’t aime and enjoyed it: some shorts more than others. Great if you don’t feel like committing to a whole movie but want to relax a little.

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