Algerian cinema milestones

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The first Algerian film was released during French colonization when the Lumière brothers commissioned photographers to document Algerian cities, nature, and people. One of the most prominent photographers of that period was Felix Mesgesh, who produced several silent documentaries about Algerian cities.اضافة اعلان

The history of Algerian cinema, however, began at the heart of the war of liberation. Starting in the 1960s, Algeria became the dominant cinematographic hub of the Maghreb region as the struggle for independence gave filmmakers a decisive ideological impulse.

During the first cinematic era, which lasted from 1962 to 1972, the main question revolved around bringing the most striking details of the liberation movement to the screen.

Algerian cinema in times of war
During the war, France used cinema as propaganda to improve the image of occupation and consolidate stereotypes about Algerians. Film titles from that period included “Funny Muslim”, “Ali drinks oil”, and other lines depicting Algeria in caricature.

In the 1950s, French anti-colonialist Roné Fouté proposed to the revolution’s leaders a production of a film on the liberation war showing the Algerian cause to the world and highlighting France’s attacks on Algerian peoples. The leadership was impressed by the idea, and in 1957, a film production unit was established to document Algeria’s experience.

The first film crew was assembled in 1957 by a group of directors led by the French activist René Vautier. They produced a major work, Algeria in Flames (1959).

From 1957 to 1962, Algerian cinema provided a space of solidarity, exchange, and expression for members of the Algerian elite and French intellectuals who sympathized with the liberation movement, including key figures in the future of Algerian cinema like Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina and Ahmed Rachedi. Another French activist, Jacques Charby, directed the first post-independence feature, Al-Salam Al-Walid (1965).

Post-liberation on screen
Upon Algeria’s independence in July 1962, Algerian cinema entered its second phase as the independent nation began to legislate and regulate the cultural sector, including cinema. Laws were introduced, and cinema halls were nationalized as the government started encouraging film production.

Director Lakhdar Hamina produced two feature films during this phase, in 1966 and 1967.

The 70s: A decade of calm
The 1970s was the only decade during which administrative upheavals did not interrupt Algerian film production. This may have contributed to the uptake in film production, with 35 feature films produced during this decade. Most of these films addressed the revolution or focused on socialist ideas.

During this decade, Ahmed Lakhdar Hamina released Chronicle of the Years of Embers, the first African film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in France in 1975.

The 80s: Films born out of struggle
On October 8, 1988, due to the economic crisis in Algeria caused by the collapse of oil prices, the country witnessed demonstrations and events that prompted the government to open up the space for party pluralism. Despite the upheaval, established Algerian filmmakers continued producing films throughout this decade.

Some Algerian filmmakers immigrated to France, including Okacha Touita, whose “The Sacrificed” (1982) bluntly exposes the internal divisions in the liberation movement in France during the Algerian war. 

In the 1980s, self-taught filmmakers also swelled the ranks of Algerian directors. Ali Ghalem, who had left the African country to work in France, reappeared in the Algerian audiovisual landscape to produce a film version of his novel, “A Wife for My Son” (1982).

The 90s: Scripting a chaotic world
In 1991, the electoral trajectory was halted, and Algeria entered a cycle of violence that led to the death of more than 200,000 Algerians and the disappearance of thousands more. From this point until about 2002, the government neglected the film sector, suspended funding to cinemas, and closed theaters after a state of emergency was declared in 1992 when terrorist acts targeted cinemas.

The upheavals within the film industry and the chaos that settled in society as Islamic fundamentalists clashed with politicians, and others are reflected in many of the films produced in 1993 and 1994.

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