The film starts with Ben Boulaid and his countrymen (in the Algerian 11th Regiment Riflemen) fighting in France against the Nazis, and returning injured to Algeria at the end of WWII. Then we’re taken to Batna to see his public and clandestine activities within the PPA and the OS. The film related the events before November 1st, 1954: the meetings of the 22, the discussions with Messali, and the final meeting of the 6 pictured while dissolving the CRUA, choosing the new organisation’s name (the FLN) and also the revolution’s starting day. Then Ben Boulaid is shown as the brave Moudjahid we know of, who leads his troops with intelligence while staying simple and humble. We see him go to Libya to buy some weapons, get arrested and tortured, plot the break out of the Koudia prison, and get back to his commanding position. The film ends with his death after trying to use a booby-trapped radio.
The movie shouldn’t be considered as a historical reference but it is interesting to see which historical “facts” were selected among the many rumours surrounding many of our revolution’s leaders’ lives and especially deaths.
The first fact was about Messali (played by the famous Slimane Benaissa) who is depicted as the now-admitted megalomaniac man who got blinded by the many years he spent as the leader of the Algerian nationalist movement, and by the Algerian people’s admiration. The fact he didn’t accept to lead the revolution just because it wasn’t his own decision (but some young men’s), and also when he asked Ben Boulaid “are you implying that I am disconnected from the people?” were interesting.
The movie also showed the hesitations of the 22 to launch the war. Strong arguments were held, and it was Souidani Boudjemaa’s that convinced everybody to go forward.
During the election of a coördinator for the CRUA, the movie chose the version which says that Ben Boulaid was elected but, as he was the one checking the votes, he hid it and read Boudiaf every time he saw his own name. This movie scene reminded me of today’s Algerian elections where people select names on their voting papers but different names win after the ballot. Of course, Ben Boulaid “cheated” so he wouldn’t become the leader whereas today our rulers cheat to stay in charge.
Talking of Boudiaf, I’ve heard often that he was a nervous man, but the way they depicted him (smoking non-stop, playing a lot with his hands, talking loudly and getting angry very quickly) surprised me. But I only know the 73-year-old man who came back to Algeria in 1992, so I can’t really tell.
Same comment on Krim with a character which had nothing to do with the national leader of the revolution I know of. Plus, he kept talking of the Kabyle people and he never mentioned Algeria as a whole. Something quite strange but I guess they wanted to send a message.
The film didn’t want to go through the problems inside the FLN/ALN, and Ben Boulaid only told Adjoul that he knew of the leadership issues in the East and that he would meet with the National leaders to fix them. The movie also selected the official version of a booby-trapped radio which would have been sent by the French army. The versions which say Adjoul trapped the radio because he wanted to remain the chief, or because he was ordered to kill Ben boulaid by Krim were discarded. But at the same time, they showed Adjoul backbiting Ben Boulaid, and also showed him leave the camp (because he had something to do) before the radio exploded.
Three very moving scenes were when in the Koudia Prison, the prisoners chose each a paper with a number which defined the order in which they’d escape. Those with the highest numbers were to go last and had therefore no chance of succeeding. The second scene was when Ben Boulaid met again with his sister and wife. And the third scene was in the prison again, a new prisoner (played by Mourad Khan) was brought in and the others didn’t trust him. He felt isolated and knew he was suspected of being a spy (and a traitor) so he started hitting his head against the wall.
All in all the movie was good and will probably be a useful vector in the mystification of our revolution, if still needed that is.