, which screened last week at TIFF was (Hors la loi)Rachid Bouchareb‘s sequel to Days of Glory (Indigènes). As a sequel it’s somewhat confusing in the sense that two of the “brothers” died in the original. In fact, there’s no indication that the three were brothers at all – except in the metaphorical sense of being Algerian brothers by blood. No matter, though. The core of the film follows a band of Algerian volunteers from Italy to France and finally Alsace (1943-1945). The only survivor of the fighting is Abdelkader who appears in a brief coda some sixty years on. In a bit of poetic license, played by the same actors, the three appear as brothers after the war in Algeria, and the story picks up from there. They seem to have kept their same personalities as well: Saïd (Jamel Debbouze), a peasant now a min-level hoodlum and club owner, Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) knows how to handle weapons, a family man, and Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), the intellectual who becomes increasingly radicalized due to the inequities he sees.
One member of the group remembers his entire family being killed by the French between the wars – something the French called pacification. Yet they all freely volunteer to fight for France against the Nazis in WWII. They see the unequal treatment that the muslims receive as compared to the French. As a result, although they continue to fight, they become embittered by their ‘slavery’. These disparities are only exacerbated in the sequel, which opens with the Sétif massacre.
The two films, seen as a unit, shine a spotlight on the conscious raising of the muslim world. The first film focuses on the struggle for respect. The second on the struggle for independence. Bouchareb is likely to continue the thread. It’ll be interesting to see how he treats the Algeria of post-independence and its place in a world of stateless terrorism.