The Battle of Algiers


D: Gillo Pontecorvo

Rialto/Rizzoli (Antonio Musu & Saadi Yacef)

Italy/Algeria 🇮🇹 🇩🇿 1966

120 mins


W: Gillo Pontecorvo & Franco Salinas

DP: Marcello Gatti

Ed: Mario Morra & Mario Serandrei

Mus: Ennio Morricone

Jean Martin (Col. Mathieu), Brahim Haggiag (Ali La Pointe), Saadi Yacef (Djafar), Samia Kerbash (Fathia), Ugo Paletti (Captain)

This Italian-Algerian production may not be one of the most iconic war films, but it's certainly amongst the most powerful.

Filmed in cinema vérité/documentary style by director Gillo Pontecorvo, the focus is on political unrest and upheaval in the city of Algiers, still under French governance as a unit of guerrilla soldiers fight for Algerian independence.

Rather than having a typical three act structure, the film plays out like newsreel footage for an authentic experience that plunges the viewer right into the civil unrest. 

There are scenes which add to the dramatisation, including one where a group of women who are armed with bombs at various public places, making for a moment of genuine tension which is unrivalled in modern productions.

I would consider this an entertaining film to watch, but it is an important one. 

It caused some controversy in France, where it was banned for several years following their withdrawal from the African colony, and the film has been shown by some armed forces to their troops as a study of urban warfare.


The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers
Did You Know:
The only professional actor in the film is Jean Martin as Colonel Mathieu. Director Gillo Pontecorvo wanted at least one professional actor, particularly in that pivotal role. The two argued frequently on set as Pontecorvo was trying to reign in Martin so that his performance would lie better with those of the non-professionals.