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The Battle of Algiers

03Jun3:00 pm5:30 pmThe Battle of Algiers3:00 pm - 5:30 pm(GMT-04:00) Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 Street, New York, NY 10011

Event Details

Conversation with David Forgacs (NYU), Q & A moderated by Na’ama Keha

This program is presented by the American Sephardi Federation as part of the New York Sephardic Film Festival (4K restoration). Admission: $ 20 – Buy Tickets.

In 1964, former Algerian National Liberation Front fighter Saadi Yacef set off to produce a film on the Algerian revolution based on his memoir Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger, detailing his activity in the NLF and his arrest in 1957. The Algerian War of Independence, which ended in 1962, is considered the most violent event in the decolonization of Africa, where France’ oppressive regime was countered by an equally brutal revolution. Massacres of civilians followed on both sides and local minorities were pitted against one another leading to bloodshed and persisting conflicts. Voices from all countries inflamed the public debate condemning France’ use of systematic torture, demanding cease-fire or arguing against it. Franz Fanon’s practice in an Algerian psychiatric hospital treating traumatized patients from both sides and his reflections on violence, capitalism and colonialism catalyzed reckoning and confrontations and became a long-lasting platform for all subsequent debates.

After independence, while in Algier, Saadi Yacef was preparing to produce his filmic account of the war, in Italy, where the rise of the cold war and the repression of the workers’ movement became an echo-chamber for the French-Algerian conflict, film director Gillo Pontecorvo began working at a completely different script on the same subject.              

Pontecorvo was born in an Italian Jewish family that nurtured participation in the civil society. As a student he joined the antifascist exiles in Paris and later the armed resistance against the nazi-fascist forces in Italy. His brother was a preeminent physicist who fled to the Soviet Union after World War II. The connection of the Algerian War  with France’ and Italy’s armed resistance against nazi-fascism was steeped in the public debate and molded arguments from all sides of the political spectrum. 

Pontecorvo and Yacef ended up meeting and decided to merge their projects into what would become one of the most iconic films of the 20th century: The Battle of Algiers (1966). 

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