“Outside the Law”: Algerian struggle is focus of new thriller


Movie Review

"Outside the Law"
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb
2010, France/Algeria/Belgium, 138 min.
French and Arabic with English subtitles

The French colonial occupation of Algeria ended in 1962 but France has yet to deal with this sordid chapter in its history. The conflict that killed over 100,000 French citizens was never officially called a war and the world knows little about this war of liberation that Algerians estimate killed over a million and a half of their own citizens.

The subject is relatively taboo in France and only a few films have addressed the neglected story, most notable being Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 powerful classic, "Battle of Algiers." Bertrand Tavernier's 1999 film "The War with No Name" and Egyptian master Yousef Chahine's 1958 drama "Jamila, the Algerian" went relatively unseen by the general public.

In 2006, French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb wrote and directed "Indigenes (Days of Glory)," and created a storm of controversy by telling the unknown story of the Algerians in French history. Protests were held by French nationalists claiming the film was revisionist, anti-French and defamed French participation in World War II. But the film received endless accolades, was nominated for an Oscar Best Foreign Film Award, and the Cannes Festival Award for Best Actor went to the entire male ensemble, a first for any festival. The epic production dramatized the Algerians' contributions to the liberation of France in World War II. These Arab fighters dedicated their lives to free France while they were still under occupation in their homeland. The day Hitler was defeated Algerians celebrated and marched in the hopes that their own land would be liberated also. In the small town of Setif in northern France, joyous marchers were gunned down and the ensuing hatred and chaos resulted in the deaths of as many as 40,000 Algerians.

It is this momentous massacre that starts Bouchareb's new film, "Outside the Law," shown at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival last month, and about to be released this weekend. It is essentially a sequel to "Indigenes," but this time addressing the struggle for independence that took place on French soil. It begins in 1945 where the other film leaves off. Both films are fast paced with topnotch directing and acting, sex, violence, and car chases, certainly a highly entertaining way to capture attention for the real-life struggle for liberation.

"Outside the Law" is the Algerian revolution in the style of "The Godfather," but with a significant difference. The three brothers are fighting in a collective way to liberate their country, rather than just the for the honor of their family name. The same three actors portray the same characters who appeared in the first film, but here they each represent a different approach to fighting for independence.  Said, played by Moroccan-born Jamel Debbouze, chooses the secular route, assimilates into French society and runs a nightclub with prostitutes. Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) is a religious intellectual who leads the independence movement (the FLN), joined by his battle-scarred brother Messaoub (Roschdy Zem) returning from action in the French Resistance. What they have in common is the desire to free their homeland from years of colonial occupation. As history has shown, through many battles, deaths and other setbacks, in 1962 Algeria won its freedom.

Bouchareb's films have provoked real social change in France. As a result of the exposure of the Muslim Algerians' contributions to World War II, France now grants equal pensions to all former combatants. And in the current climate of ethnic fear caused partly by a nation denied its full history, the positive role of Muslims in the French liberation from Nazism as portrayed in Bouchareb's films helps break the stereotypes prevalent in today's Europe. It also offers inspiration to those struggling in other parts of the world against colonialism and foreign occupation. And, in fairness, France deserves praise as a nation at least partly willing to address its sordid colonialist past.

Photo: A scene from "Outside the Law." (Tessalit Films


Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • Yes there is much good going on in showing the liberation side of the story as being the move from foreign domination and control, to the movement whereby the peoples gain independence and freedom.

    In light of this and the need to save fish lake from Taseko mining gold and copper mining, which proposes to drain the lake and make it a tailings pond impoundment area, for the toxic waste thereby killing 90,000 Rainbow trout and destroying the culture and living of the local first nations people.

    I would ask if any of these film makers might consider making a film depicting the comming struggle to save fish lake that is taking place twenty-five miles west of 'Williams Lake' B.C. Canada.
    There is twelve national environmental organizations in Canada supporting the local first nations who are pledging to stop the destruction of their environment at all costs, and including the armed struggle to end the Taseko mine access, and save their way of life.

    We do not need another gold mine and the copper that is there. The gold sits in fort knox underground for hundreds of years, and the world's copper can be recycled and is in vast supply without opening this mine which is below the lake.

    The mayor of Williams Lake is inciting the local population against the native just cause because he thinks the mining will bring properity to the town of Williams Lake. Prosperity is the name of the proposed Mine.
    This is causing the rift to take place between native and settler and is not good for the harmony of the people locally and throughout Canada.

    The liberal government in Victoria, B.C. has said the mine should go ahead and thinks wrongly that the environmental damage would not out weigh the economic advantage to the province and the local town.
    The schedule 2 phase which ends federal protection to the rivers and waterways is being discussed in Ottawa. However, if the federal capital in Ottawa decides to quit federal protection and okays the go ahead, the fight is on.

    The decisions are due soon and the time to film this epic struggle is now. We could use professional help in filming this unity and struggle for the needs of the comming battles to save mother earth and teach the lessons of the classes in struggle that we all need to know to arrive at victory.

    Some adresses are www.coalitiontosavefishlake.com, www.friendsofthenemaiahvalley.com,www.sierraclub.bc.com,www.fonv.ca/news_and_events/newsfishlake,www.councilofcanadians.org,www.aptn.com/news/fishlake

    Posted by jon, 10/07/2010 3:18am (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments