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DAYS OF GLORY

Director: RACHID BOUCHAREB

FRANCE-MOROCCO-ALGERIA-BELGIUM • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • 123 MIN


Few films have changed history. This one did. French president Jacques Chirac saw ‘Indigènes’ and ordered the restitution of long-denied pension payments to the remaining North African soldiers who fought for their French colonial masters during WWII.

On the surface, this seems like justice at last, yet the prime assessment which comes out of this firmly controlled but nonetheless searingly angry dramatisation of these men’s bitter wartime experiences is a sense of shame on the French nation that they should have ignored such sacrifices for so long. Quite simply, Rachid Bouchareb’s film is one that had to be made, but its ultimate triumph is that it has been made so well.

Algerian corporal Sami Bouajila, plucky one-armed peasant Jamel Debbouze, crack shot Roschdy Zem, and hard-as-nails Berber warrior Samy Naceri are the war movie’s usual motley crew, yet they’re united by the idea that somehow in fighting for France, the French will regard them as equals. Their bravery under fire notwithstanding, inequity is still rife within the ranks, and even their steely African-born French sergeant Bernard Blancan knows that it’s better to keep his ‘pied noir’ heritage under wraps. The fine principal cast shared the Best Actor award at Cannes last year, and if the film keeps its storyline within familiar men-on-a-mission contours, it builds to an exceptionally tense finale in Nazi-held Alsace, a chilly corner of northern France so different from these soldiers’ homelands it might as well be on another planet. A dramatically urgent, yet movingly dignified act of remembrance.—Trevor Johnston.

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