It’s a film that’s been plugged so much on this site over the last 6 years since the site was created, that an introduction really shouldn’t be necessary at this point! Considerably more controversial in its day (it was banned in France for a number of years, for obvious reasons), “The Battle of Algiers” reconstructs events that occurred during the Algerian war of independence from the French colonists in the late 1950s.
Recalling its rallying cry: “It’s difficult to start a revolution… even more difficult to sustain one… and still more difficult to win one”; It’s a seminal work of cinema that still very much holds up today, 50 years later, as quite a visceral thrill, due, in large part, to Pontecorvo’s goal of realistic representation through a distinct grainy newsreel-like cinematography, the use of real locations, and observance of factual information. Pontecorvo and cinematographer Marcello Gatti broke new ground in creating this documentary look that convinced viewers they were watching actual events unfold. This heightened realism, combined with the use of unknown actors and Ennio Morricone’s effective score, instantly created a universally acclaimed classic, which was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Foreign Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (by Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas).
“The Battle of Algiers” still resonates as an authentic and unique insight into the Algerian conflict. Embraced by leftist groups like the Black Panthers, it’s even been reported that the United States Department of Defense used the film as a learning tool in matters of guerrilla warfare, to assist during the Iraqi insurgency in the early 2000s.
It’s one of my all-time favorite films, and certainly temporally apropos, in light of uprisings that have been taking place around the world in recent years – notably in Northern Africa, and even here in the USA (think #BlackLivesMatter).
Announced today, celebrating the film’s 50 anniversary, New York-based specialty distributor Rialto Pictures will re-release Pontecorvo’s 1966 masterpiece with a stunning new 4K restoration, which has the distinction of being selected for all three major international film festivals this fall: Venice, New York and Toronto.
It’s worth noting that “Algiers” originally premiered at Venice in 1966, and was the opening night film of the 4th New York Film Festival in 1967.
Rialto Pictures will kick of the restored print’s theatrical run beginning on October 7 at New York’s Film Forum, Landmark’s Nuart in Los Angeles, and E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C. And then a major USA city roll-out will follow through the fall.
One of the leaders of Algeria’s National Liberation Front during the country’s war of independence (the film’s focus), Saadi Yacef, whose memoir formed the basis for the film, and who also played a key role in, and produced “Algiers,” is scheduled to appear at screenings in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
This is an opportunity not to be missed – seeing it on the big screen, with a newly-restored print, even if you’ve already seen the film previously.
The new 4K restoration was performed by Cineteca di Bologna and Istituto Luce – Cinecittà at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Surf Film, Casbah Entertainment, Inc. and CultFilms.
Watch a trailer (although it’s not of the 4k restored print) below: