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The Battle of Algiers film image, men with rifles

Gillo Pontecorvo’s 60s classic draws the battle lines between French colonialists and Arab insurrectionists in a pulsating, fly-on-the-wall documentary style.

Pontecorvo’s use of real locations (the very streets where the events depicted in the film had taken place a few years before), non-professional actors, and handheld camera give this drama the immediacy of breaking news –- an impression that still holds true today, given the film’s hard, level-headed look at the deadly cat and mouse game between Arab “terrorist” resistance fighters and a western occupying force. It is a definitive film driven by one of Ennio Morricone’s greatest scores.

Working without stars (only Jean Martin – the French colonel – had acted professionally before) and on the same casbah streets where the events he depicts had taken place a few years earlier, Pontecorvo conveyed the deadly cat and mouse game between occupier and terrorist in stark dramatic strokes. And although he didn’t make any bones about where his sympathies lay, the film is scrupulously fair. Banned in France for many years, and censored in both Britain and the US, The Battle of Algiers was celebrated by international left-wing movements throughout the late 60s and beyond.

Born in Pisa, the son of a wealthy Jewish businessman, Gilberto Pontecorvo earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Pisa. With Italy turning fascist he fled to Paris, where he worked as a correspondent for Repubblica and Paesa Sera and as an assistant to the Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens and French thriller director Yves Allegret.

Pontecorvo joined the Communist Party in 1941 and returned to Italy to become a leader of the Partisans in Milan. After the war, Rossellini’s Paisa inspired him buy a 16mm camera and he began making documentaries in 1953.

Sunday’s Pantheon screening will be preceded by a 15 minute introductory lecture and feature a book club-style discussion afterwards.


Presented by


Gillo Pontecorvo


Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Colonel Mathieu, Samia Kerbash, Fusia El Kader, Ugo Paletti, Mohamed Ben Kassen

Country of Origin





In French and Arabic with English subtitles

135 min

Book Tickets

Sunday November 17

11:00 am
Guests/Q&As Hearing Assistance Subtitles
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
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Tuesday November 19

5:50 pm
Hearing Assistance Subtitles
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now



Saadi Yacef


Gillo Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas


Marcello Gatti


Mario Morra, Mario Serandrei

Original Music

Ennio Morricone, Gillo Pontecorvo

Production Design

Sergio Canevari

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The Battle of Algiers

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French Colonel Mathieu hunts for Algerian resistance leader Ali la Pointe in Pontecorvo's classic, which draws the battle lines between colonialists and Arab insurrectionists in a pulsating, "fly-on-the-wall" documentary style.

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