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The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers(1967)

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In October 1957, Ali la Pointe, a leader of the Algerian FLN (Front de Liberation Nationale), is trapped by the French in his house in the Casbah. He reflects back to the time 3 years earlier in 1954 when he became involved in the struggle for freedom: Ali, who had been a petty thief, joins the guerrilla movement after his release from prison. He soon becomes a leader in the struggle to rid the Casbah of its brothels and other vice. Under the leadership of Saari Kader, the Arabs undertake terrorist activities against the European community in Algiers, including the shooting of policemen to obtain weapons. Although the Governor attempts to squelch the uprising by sealing off the Casbah (where most of the FLN are in hiding), the attacks continue. Then a journalist belonging to a French extremist group which includes a number of police officials takes advantage of his press card to gain entry into the Casbah and plant a bomb which kills scores of Arabs. In retaliation, Kader has three Arab women leave the Casbah in European dress and plant time bombs in a crowded cafe, a dance bar, and an air terminal. By 1957 the French are desperate and bring in the 10th Paratroop Division headed by Colonel Mathieu. Quick to understand that the FLN is set up like a pyramid in which no one member knows the identity of more than three others, Mathieu uses torture to force captured terrorists to reveal the names of their comrades. When the FLN orders an 8-day general strike while the United Nations debates the crisis, Mathieu intensifies his efforts to break down the structure of the pyramid and capture Kader, Larbi Ben M'Hidi, and the other group leaders. By the time the United Nations has decided not to intervene, Mathieu has eliminated all but one of the FLN chiefs--Ali la Pointe. Eventually, the address of Ali's hideout is discovered, and he and three others, including a young boy, Omar, are trapped behind the wall of a bedroom. Mathieu delivers the ultimatum that unless they surrender, the house will be blown up . Ali and his comrades refuse to yield, and, as Arabs throughout the Casbah pray, the last four survivors of the FLN die. For over 3 years, until December 1960, there is relative quiet. Then, without warning, rioting erupts anew as thousands upon thousands of Algerians roar through the streets shouting their cry of freedom. The struggle continues until finally--on July 3, 1962--Algeria wins its independence.