French-Algerian film director Rachid Bouchareb challenges the myths of French colonialism in his new film Outside the Law.
In Days of Glory he recalled the central but forgotten role of soldiers from France’s North African colonies in the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
His new film is an uncompromising defence of the struggle for Algerian independence against French rule.
The film is framed by the events of Setif, an Algerian town, in May 1945, days after victory in Europe was declared.
When Algerians protested to demand independence they discovered that liberation did not apply to the colonies. Thousands were massacred in the repression that followed.
The film follows the fortunes of three Algerian brothers, Messaoud, Abdelkader and Saïd.
With varying degrees of willingness, each is drawn into the independence struggle.
The film doesn’t flinch from the violence the Algerian nationalists used to fight for independence—or the price that’s paid for it by victims and perpetrators alike.
But it poses a simple challenge—given the violence of the French state, what alternative did they have?
If French resistance to the Nazis was justified, did not Algerians have the same right to resist their occupier?
No wonder the French right wing hated this film.
Mark L Thomas