Algerian cinema: Towards a New Wave

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Algerian revolution, Rosa Abidi curated the largest retrospective of Algerian cinema in the UK. Algerian Cinema: Towards a New Wave comprised of 15 UK premieres and 2 classics, screened at London’s Hackney Picturehouse, the RichMix, the Roxy and the Genesis cinemas, in collaboration with the Royal African Society‘s Film Africa.

Programme

Grouped in chronological order and thematically, this programme featured the fresh, whimsical and perceptive work of a new wave of filmmakers who are unmistakeably shifting Algeria’s cinematic landscape. Established filmmaker Hadjadj opened the retrospective, whilst two 1960’s classics complemented this showcase of 15 Premieres: a tour of Algeria past and present…

A double-bill on Algerian resistance
Fadhma n’Soumer | European Premiere
Dir. Belkacem Hadjadj | Algeria | 2014 | Amazigh | French, Arabic, English with English subtitles | 116 mins | Colour
Followed by a Q&A with director Belkacem Hadjadj and curator Rosa Abidi

Algeria, 1847: at the end of the epic resistance of Emir Abdelkader, the French colonial army turns its attention to Kabylia, whose people remain rebellious and unconquered. As the French prepare for the conquest of this strategic region, resistance is being organised with the contribution of fighters from nearby lands, including Sharif Boubeghla. It is in this world that Fadhma n’Soumer rises to prominence. Brought up in a family of scholars, Fadhma reveals an exceptional personality from a young age, defiantly rejecting 19th century patriarchal traditions for spiritual pursuits. In this stunning biopic, Hadjadj brings to life the extraordinary story of a mystic and resistance leader, called by the French the ‘Joan of Arc of Kabylia’.


The Battle of Algiers (La battaglia di Algeri)
Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo | Italy/Algeria | 1966 | French, Arabic, English with English subtitles | 121 mins | B&W

Winner of the Golden Lion at the 1966 Venice Film Festival, Pontecorvo’s film focuses on a battle which took place in 1957 between the French army and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). A riveting piece of cinéma vérité, The Battle of Algiers has elicited strong emotional responses and was banned in France for many years. It has since been appropriated by diverse camps: French General Aussaresses has allegedly used it to train officers to torture; the Stop the War Coalition screened it as a message of hope against US/British forces; the US government has brandished it as a “manual” of how to beat a guerrilla battle but lose a political war. A masterpiece not to be missed, The Battle of Algiers is still as powerful and politically relevant today as it was over forty years ago.

 


Documenting the Past: three intriguing and imaginative pieces that enrich the tapestry of collective memory

Programme introduced by Dr Karima Laachir, Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London

Tarzan, Don Quichotte and Us (Tarzan, Don Quichotte et nous) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Hassen Ferhani | Algeria |2013 | Arabic with English subtitles | 18 mins | Colour

Ambling along the Cervantes district of Algiers, from the Jardin d’Essai where the first Tarzan film was shot in 1923, to the Cervantes cave where the world famous author prepared his escape from Algeria, Ferhani teases out the interplay of subjective reality, legend and local history. An understated and charming film.

+ In the Silence, I Feel the Earth Roll (Dans le silence, je sens rouler la terre) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Mohamed Lakhdar Tati | France/Algeria | 2010 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 56 mins | Colour

In 1939, the end of the Spanish Civil War forced thousands of men, woman and children to flee Spain. The French administration in Algeria opened up camps to house them. Seventy years later, a young Algerian decides to investigate. Although no archives or documents remain, a few traces have survived collective oblivion.

+ Frantz Fanon: Memories from the Asylum (Frantz Fanon: Mémoire d’Asile) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Abdenour Zahzah | Algeria | 2002 | French, Arabic with English subtitles | 54 mins | Colour, B&W

A philosopher, revolutionary and theorist, Frantz Fanon’s work inspired independence movements over decades and he remains today one of the most influential thinkers of post-colonial theory. Zahzah’s rich and original piece alternates between the reconstitution of Fanon’s life, an examination of his theories of identity and race, and present-day Joinville Hospital in Blida Algeria, where Fanon practised as a psychiatrist.

 


Life and death in the 90s: insightful and affecting award-winning shorts

Tomorrow, Algiers? (Demain, Alger?) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Amin Sidi-Boumediène | Algeria | 2011 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 20 mins | Colour

Three disaffected youths hang out in their neighbourhood. They are discussing their best friend’s imminent trip abroad as well as a curious event due to take place the next day: no one anticipates that it will herald a turning point in Algeria’s contemporary history.

+ We Will Not Die (On ne mourra pas) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Amal Kateb | France | 2010 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 21 mins | Colour

Friday’s prayer, Algeria 1994. Journalist Salim is returning to his hometown of Oran after an assignment in Kaboul. He joins his lover Houria who has anxiously been awaiting his return in a hideout. To celebrate their reunion, Salim pulls out a bottle of wine brought back from Afghanistan. The trouble is, Houria doesn’t have a corkscrew.

+ The Days Before (Les Jours d’Avant) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Karim Moussaoui | France/Algeria | 2013 | Arabic with English subtitles | 47 mins | Colour

Young Djaber and Yamina are neighbours in a housing estate near Algiers in the mid-1990s. Meeting the opposite sex is riddled with so many difficulties, they have almost stopped believing it possible. However, what had previously been only a muffled and distant violence erupts at their doorstep, changing their lives forever.

 


Protests and revolutions: civil society’s forgotten stories

Followed by a discussion with Hamza Hamouchene, Algerian activist and writer, and co-founder of Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC)

Before Crossing the Horizon (Avant de franchir la ligne d’horizon) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Habiba Djahnine | France/Algeria | 2010 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 64 mins | Colour

In the past few years, some have wondered why Algeria has remained “unaffected” by the Arab Spring. In this rare and prescient document, Djahnine explores the popular protests that unfolded in Algeria between 1988 and 2010, the year Tunisia began its Jasmine Revolution. Committed citizens, these grassroots militants candidly speak of their experiences, their words etched against their country’s tormented contemporary history.

+ Equivocal Chronicles (Chroniques équivoques) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Lamine Ammar-khodja | Algeria | 2012 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 60 mins | Colour

A series of chronicles about the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Algerian independence in 1962; equivocal fragments as stories that resonate to form a complex mosaic of the city of Algiers. Ammar-khodja’s wanderings are as uncertain as they are bold, his investigation of society a springboard for his own idiosyncratic and provocative questioning.



And life goes on…beautifully observed shorts quietly reflecting on contemporary life

In collaboration with The Maghreb Cinema Series

Uzzu [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Sonia Ahnou | Algeria | 2011 | Amazigh, Arabic with English subtitles | 22 mins | Colour

Let’s talk about love: Ahnou invites a group of university students and encourages them to discuss the topic. Simple and illuminating.

+ Tell Me (Goulili) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Sabrina Draoui | France | 2009 | French with English subtitles | 16 mins | Colour

The alarm goes off, a young woman mechanically readies herself for the day. Doubts and desires surface, along with the burning question: what to do with one’s body when one’s soul is stifled in it?

+ Square Port Said | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Faouzi Boudjemai | Algeria/France | 2011 | Arabic with English subtitles | 5 mins | Colour

In a bus, a young man, a young woman and a child enter into silent communication: a brief and sweet encounter.

+ Another Ordinary Day (Une journée ordinaire) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Bahia Allouache | Algeria | 2012 | Arabic with English subtitles | 22 mins | Colour

Salima has invited three girlfriends for tea. Her brother and his friends are on the terrace mending a satellite dish. It is 10 May 2012 in Algiers, the day of a decisive presidential election…

+ The Window (Le Hublot) | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Anis Djaad | Algeria | 2012 | Arabic with English subtitles | 20 mins |Colour

Two unemployed and disaffected youths only have the view of the sea to expand their otherwise bleak horizon. The construction of a new building threatens to obstruct their vista to life.

 

 

Women and Sport: Algerian Footballers share their passion
The Desert Foxes (A quoi rêvent les Fennecs) [DOC] | UK PREMIERE
Dir. Sarah Tikanouine | France/Algeria | 2014 | Arabic, French with English subtitles | 48 mins | Colour
Followed by a Q&A with director Sarah Tikanouine and curator Rosa Abidi
In collaboration with The Maghreb Cinema Series

In this intimate documentary, we meet the players of the first Algerian women’s national football team, some of whom live in France joining the squad for international games. Yet, French or Algerian, they share the same passion and commitment to this sport. Winners of the first Arab Nations Cup in 2006 and proud of their achievements, they nonetheless remain concerned about their future as footballers. Made over several years, Tikanouine’s piece successfully captures the players’ camaraderie, their hopes and their dreams and what it means to be a woman and a footballer in contemporary Algerian society.

 

+ Film Africa LIVE! with El-Andalus quartet, led by Algerian oud virtuoso Yazid Fentazi

El-Andalus are London’s leading exponents of classical Arab-Andalus music. They are led by oud (Arab lute) player Yazid Fentazi who has performed with Cheb Mami, Cheb Sahraoui and the Turqui Brothers, whilst his progressive songwriting skills are used to great effect within the extraordinary Rai-fusion band Fantazia. Accompanied by world class derbouka player Karim Dellali (Moiré Music, Oojami) and the acrobatic pyrotechnics of violinist Frank Biddulph (Mukka, Fantazia), the trio is regularly expanded to a quartet by the addition of Algerian bassist extraordinaire, Hamid Bouri.

In collaboration with The Maghreb Cinema Series and Culturama


The Panafrican Festival of Algiers (Le Festival Panafricain d’Alger 1969) [DOC]
Dir. William Klein | Algeria/France | 1969 | French, Arabic with English subtitles | 90 mins | Colour
Followed by a discussion with Hamza Hamouchene and Kevin Bismarck Cobham, Pan-African activists
In collaboration with Culturama

This little known masterpiece of a documentary by the photographer, painter and graphic artist William Klein plunges us into the very heart of the 1st Panafrican Cultural Festival held in Algeria in 1969. This historic festival brought a global spotlight on African culture and arts, celebrating the liberation of African nations from colonial rule and calling for the same freedom for the rest of the continent. William Klein’s film captures the sense of jubilation of the moment and provides historical context for understanding a continent united in its desire for freedom. The spirit of the documentary is: “African culture will be revolutionary, or it will not be”.


Algerian cinema: Towards a New Wave
a collaboration with Film Africa, the Royal African’s Society film festival