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How the bombers bought their own TRIUMPH OF THE WILL

7/10
Author: charlytully from Rosebush
15 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is hard to address this "making of" without a prologue using facts gleaned from watching director Gillo Pontecorvo's epic docudrama, THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS, along with the other six extras included in the 2004 Criterion Collection release for BATTLE. In a nutshell, the Algerians allowed their French neighbors from across the Mediterranean Sea to improve their infrastructure for more than 100 years. Then when their population of "pied noir" city managers had swelled to one million, they drove out all of them between 1955 and 1965 with a series of massacres and terrorist bombings. Though many of these "FLN" liberation front urban guerillas died during that decade (some at the hands of their colleagues in the sort of bloody purges that always mark such uprisings; others at the hands of the French authorities), a few were kept safely "above the fray" in French-run prisons until that European power's withdrawal.

When the French retreat was complete, according to MARXIST POETRY, pardoned and released FLN ringleader Saadi Yacef interviewed as many European film directors as he could in an effort to get his own story on screen. Italian Gillo Pontecorvo won this commission (Yacef paid 45% of BATTLE's production costs, presumably with leftover funds in the FLN treasury) by casting Yacef in a lead role, essentially playing himself, as a character named Jarra. During filming Yacef was able to get all the FLN sympathizers to reprise their real-life roles as crowd extras, and even allowed Pontecorvo to blow up buildings across Algiers to recreate the carnage of a few years earlier.

One of the women "basket bombers" (a trio of mixed-race French-speaking Muslims who disguised themselves in western clothing and hair styles to get through military check-points, then entered the hang-outs of French families and teenagers, and blew them to bits by abandoning purse bombs with timers), Zorah Drif-Bitat, apparently is kept out of this "making of" by the producers Kim Hendrickson and Abbey Lustgarten because she was so militantly unapologetic in the REMEMBERING HISTORY extra for which the producers interviewed her concurrently to the footage shot for MARXIST POETRY. But no matter how pretty and "poetic" they try to make BATTLE, the fact remains that their interviews with aging FLN'ers confirms that BATTLE was, in effect, paid propaganda into which Pontecorvo may have been somewhat duped to facilitate. It is also stated BATTLE became a template or how-to manual, studied by the perpetrators of every terrorist campaign of the past 43 years. As another extra, GILLO PONTECORVO: THE DICTATORSHIP OF TRUTH, implies, this director spent the remainder of his life acting like a conscience-stricken man. After the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1956, Pontecorvo had turned in his Communist Party card. After THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS came out 10 years later, he virtually turned in his movie-directing career. He seems far less sanguine with his historical role than the aging French counter-terrorist paratroopers interviewed for REMEMBERING HISTORY, who admit to all kinds of torture in their efforts to defuse the ORIGINAL "ticking time-bomb" scenario.

In 1933, the Nazi party hired the gifted actress\director of THE BLUE LIGHT, Leni Riefenstahl, to become their in-house propagandist. Her most notable effort in that direction, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, is rated 7.8 out of 10 on IMDb. The fact that THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS ranks slightly higher at 8.2 does nothing to diminish its historical role as a terrorist training manual, to which MARXIST POETRY amply bears witness.

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