Algeria, 1943, through Italy and France, to Alsace in early 1945, with a coda years later. Arabs volunteer to fight Nazis to liberate France, their motherland. We follow Saïd, dirt poor, an orderly for a grizzled sergeant, Martinez, a pied noir with some willingness to speak up for his Arab troops; Messaoud, a crack shot, who in Province falls in love with a French woman who loves him back; and Abdelkader, a corporal, a budding intellectual with a keen sense of injustice. The men fight with courage against a backdrop of small and large indignities: French soldiers get better food, time for leave, and promotions. Is the promise of liberty, equality, and fraternity hollow? Written by
So you've done a great piece of work, and are awaiting your just rewards. Somehow along the way, someone else, by colour, creed, or connections, get all the recognition that you're due credit for. You feel frustrated, but you think of your rice bowl, and decide to grit your teeth and bear it, calling it just another day, secretly longing for a time where you are empowered to do something about it.
In the liberation of France during WWII, North African men were recruited and enlisted in the French army in the fight against the Nazis. Why do they do it? One reason is to escape poverty, and the holding on to the glimmer of hope that they can be accepted, when the war is over, as equals based on their fight for the "motherland". These soldiers, mujahedeens, fought hard, often being in the frontline, but always overlooked when it comes to recognition of basic military welfare and promotions, not that these rewards will cost an arm or a leg, nor are the fighters so hard up for them. All they're asking for was fair treatment, but all they got was discrimination.
Yes, and that is the pain. WWII movies are aplenty, but Days of Glory offered a unique look at the battles by a group of men, for what they deem their motherland and will defend with their blood, and what more, for a land of people who do not see them as equals. Loving someone who does not love you back, sounds familiar? And it's not just love, but sworn allegiance to protect at all costs.
The movie is well paced and straddled moments of action and quiet contemplation with aplomb. Credit must go to the ensemble cast of actors who play the warriors of North Africa, as they battle both the enemies on French soil, as well as enemies of men's heart. They grapple with trying to remain rational in their reason(s) to do what they're doing.
At times, watching this movie made me think about the recent flurry of mails to the press about foreign talent and the issue of citizenship, about NS obligations and whether PRs will flee at the first signs of trouble, or stand shoulder to shoulder with citizens (also, who are those who will flee?) in defending our land. What are the issues of contention, discrimination against, or general presumptions about foreigners here?
Those expecting all out battle scenes might be disappointed. In truth the movie's never about the glorification of gore, violence and war - most scenes aren't really blood splattering to draw in the crowds. Instead, if you'd prefer moments where you can think out loud about the issues presented, then this is for you. However, the final battle would please action fans, as it is well choreographed and executed, and you feel both the pain and victory from a bunch of tightly knit soldiers trying their very best to defend a small town, in a samurai- seven-ish sort of way, also reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan's somehow.
If you've missed this during the French Film Festival, don't fret. I believe this movie is also slated for general release. Keep a look out for it!
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