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Home » ART[icle]S, Independence Issue

Independence Issue: Outside the (Right) Law – Film Review

Submitted by on February 6, 2011 – 3:07 pmNo Comment

 

A still from the film Outside the Law.

A thousand people gathered on the red carpet to protest against the projection of Outside The Law, Rachid Bouchareb’s second movie about the French (de)colonisation. Among the demonstrators, far-right and right-wing elected representatives tossed off many recriminations against the movie, calling it: a “revisionist work of propaganda” and an “insult to the Republic”. In 2006, however, Days of Glory [Bouchareb’s previous movie] had a warmer welcome. On the day of its release, the French prime minister announced his good deed: he promised to surviving veterans from ex-colonies that their pensions would be aligned with those of their French peers. Bouchareb’s new release tells the destiny of three Algerian brothers from the Sétif massacres in 1945 throughout the War of Independence until 1962.

Abdelkader, the political one, has just been released from prison with a staunch determination and a well-stocked contact book. He meets his two younger brothers and mother in a slum of the suburbs of Paris. To make a living, their only choice is to work at the factory nearby with all the other migrants, under-paid and perpetually nostalgic for the lost land. Saïd, the youngest, is very ambitious. Whatever it takes, he aspires to make his way up the social ladder.

Their hope, they need to find itsomewhere ‘outside the law’; the world of pimps and prostitutes for Saïd, and the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale)for his two older brothers. Messaoud, along with Abdelkader, toughened by his experience as a soldier in Vietnam’s independence war, will fight under the aegis of the revolutionary body founded in 1954. As the FLN members did, the brothers participate in the café-wars (assassinations of the opponents of the FLN, the MNA – Mouvement National Algérien – in a struggle for influence), collect the revolutionary tax and condemn without impunity those FLN members who stick out of the herd.

Yet, the cinematographic quality of the movie is open to criticism. The ‘three brothers, three destinies’ scheme, plus the sensationalist touch – one explosion/gunshot/dilemma/murder per minute – are too much. The plot is outlined hastily and details are left aside. When at the middle of the movie, I recognized my own trendy-ish pair of glasses on the nose of Abdelkader, I got a bit upset. This is precisely what gives credit to those who want to demolish a work of art by pleading its non-accuracy.

“What made your fight more legitimate than mine?” – The question Abdelkader asks to the policeman tracking him down – a resistant from WWII – is central. When we stand for a cause, to what extent are we biased? In the praised Days of Glory, the acting trio – Jamel Debbouze, Roshdy Zemand Sami Bouajila – were three soldiers under the colonist’s thumb, fighting for the colonist’s freedom. In Outside the Law, they fight for their own freedom…from the colonist. The weapons swapped sides. The politicians’ reactions as well.

Outside the Law (Hors la Loi)

Written and Directed by: Rachid Bouchareb

Produced by: Jean Bréhat

Starring: Jamel Debbouze, RoschdyZem, Sami Bouajila, Chafia Boudraa

Genres: Action, Drama, History, ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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