Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1975, Chronicle of the Years of Embers portrays Algeria's struggle for independence from French colonial rule. The story follows a peasant's migration from his drought-stricken village to his eventual participation with the Algerian resistance movement, just prior to the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence. Written by
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This massive historical piece gives the impression of being the launch of the great French Arab movie tradition but people closer to the source might know better.
There are stories of harsh conditions on the production but the result is imposing and spectacular.
We follow the life of one Algerian who sees history overtake him and becomes involved in the independence movement. Not the least intriguing scene is the one where his neighbors have a secret WW2 radio receiver but prove to be listening not to Winston Churchill but to Adolf Hitler because they know he is against the French. The progressive element are shown as considering the whole European war as a digression.
Most powerful scene shows the succession of events concerning the construction of a dam which dries up the community's water. All this is the stuff of culture shock.
The technical work is assured. Cameraman Gatti worked regularly with Pontecorvo, making him a natural choice for this one but he also did popular films, notably several by Sergio Corbucci.
In a better ordered world, this would be more familiar than BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and THE CRUEL SEA but we don't live in that world.
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