Colonialism in Algeria

Watch one of these two movies and write a 500 Word

The following two movies discuss the colonial experience and the struggle for decolonization in Algeria. They are both Algerian-French production and they are both quite controversial. You should be able to find them online.


Days of Glory


Battle of Algiers


Days of Glory is a recent movie that became an instant classic. It tells the contradicting and heart breaking stories of Algerian soldiers fighting for France during WW2. The film’s main character, Abdulkader is modeled after Ahmed Ben Bella, the first president of Algeria who passed away a few days ago.


The Battle of Algiers is an old (1966) and very controversial movie  about the Algerian struggle for independence. It was and it still remains controversial in France because it tells the story of the struggle from independence through Algerian eyes. The film was banned in France, Israel and a variety of other places for a long time because it portrays violent resistance to occupation in a somewhat favorable light. More recently, it was screened at the Pentagon before the occupation of Iraq because having been inspire by the real events of a military occupation of an Arab country, it should have “helped” understand what not to do as an occupying force. Notoriously, the French Army won the Battle of Algiers, but lost the hears and minds of Algerians in the process–eventually the French occupation of Algeria turned out to be a major failure on a variety of levels.

From an artistic viewpoint, this film is considered one of the best movies of all time.


Together, the two movies shed light on key issues relating to colonialism and decolonization. Here are some questions you can think about and answer in your extra-credit paper:

– What was the meaning of the war experience for the protagonists of Days of Glory? What were the contradictions and problems that Algerian soldiers faced in the French Army?

– Which of the movies’ characters has your sympathy? Do you think Abdulkader is a hero or a fool? Had he been brainwashed by the “civilizing mission” or was he someone who find in the ideals of the the Enlightenment something worth dying for?

– What do you make of the other characters, what had colonialism done to them?

– The Battle for Algiers shows you violence on both sides: the French occupiers and the Algerian Liberation Front were both responsible for widespread violence during the war. Is violence acceptable as a form of resistance or should it be condemned all the time? Is all violence the same or some acts of violence are unacceptable regardless?

– Notoriously, the French won the battle for Algiers, but lost the war of ideas: in a few years after winning the battle for Algiers the French had to pack and leave Algeria. Why do you think that was? Why is colonialism doomed to failure?

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