Wednesday, January 31, 2007


An endless supply of stories

By Edward Copeland
Sixty-plus years after the conclusion of World War II, filmmakers around the world keep coming up with new stories that haven't been told. This year alone, Clint Eastwood presented two with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima and now comes Rachid Bouchareb with Days of Glory aka Indigenes, Algeria's contender for the Oscar for foreign language film.

Days of Glory tells the story of Algerian Muslims who volunteered to fight for Charles de Gaulle to free France from the Nazis since Algeria at the time was still a French colony.

The film provides real resonance today as you see the seeds being planted for the resentment between Muslims and France that have bubbled up in recent years. The film focuses on four Algerian soldiers though one of the film's weaknesses is that none of them are particularly well developed.

The character drawn most clearly is that of the sergeant leading the unit (Bernard Blancan) who may be hiding his own ethnic identity in hopes of reaching greater heights in the French military. The grunts get promise after promise that the see ignored as they finally realize that no matter how faithful and valiant their efforts are during the war effort, the French always will view them as outsiders and won't be anxious to grant them the accolades they deserve for their service.

Bouchareb moves the film along well and much of the warfare is suitably stark and harrowing, but the film's real power lies in what's left unsaid and the viewer's knowledge of what will come years later down the road.

I've seen three out of the five nominees for this year's Oscar for foreign language film (Pan's Labyrinth and Water are the others), but of the three, I'd still vote for Water. I wonder — 60 years from now (not that I'll be here) — will the Iraq war provide as bountiful a crop of film subjects?

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