Thursday, October 26, 2006

Geography and Film: Battle of Algiers


The Battle of Algiers is hands down of the best war films ever. The movie is loosely based on the book by Saadi Yacef and concerns the urban guerrilla battle for the city of Algiers during the Algerian Independence War. The movie first shows how Algerian FLN tried to create an ungoverned space, fill the vacuum, and then extend their control. The FLN first attacked French police on patrol and enforced their own laws. The police retaliated by bombing FLN areas with small explosive devices. A tick-for-tat style of warfare started reaching a climax with the introduction of French paratroopers.

Unlike the book, written by a Algerian FLN commander, the movie is unbiased. I have discussed the film with several people and we all agreed that one sees what they want to see. When the French military resorts to extreme measures to defeat the FLN a leftist may see horrible, amoral torture while a rightist may see a necessary evil to save lives.

The movie shows many geographical elements. Algiers was a collection of French and Arab neighborhoods which were worlds apart. While the French liked their neighborhoods French many of the lower jobs were done by Algerians (much like the American-Mexican relationship. The world was also showing signs of globalization in the 1950s with Coca-Cola is enjoyed by the Pied-noir French. Finally, the fourth generation warfare tactic of media battles is shown with the FLN trying to get sympathetic media and therefore the world community on their side.

While the FLN loses the Battle of Algiers they win the war through media and the French's defeatist attitude.

The Algerian War set many first. First time in centuries that a non-Turkish Muslim power defeated a Western nation. First time the third world defeated the first world.

The film has many lessons and morals; all of which apply today.

Category: Geography in Movies

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