Days of Glory (Les Indigines) – Rachid Boucharab – 2006 France Belgium Algeria

Days of Glory (Les Indigines) – Rachid Boucharab – 2006 France Belgium Algeria

You’re in the army now….
This is a war movie with an angle – the angle being that the group of buddies whom we follow are members of a regiment raised in Algeria and comprising of native Algerians. They are in effect fighting for the colonial occupying power, and their propensity to enlist and fight was engendered through ignorance poverty and a desire perhaps to get outside the enclaves in which their French masters and the Pieds Noirs{‘Algerians’- of European origin) have sequestered them.Days of Glory (Les Indigines) –  Rachid Boucharab – 2006 France Belgium Algeria; Sami Naceri – Roschdz Zei – Bernard Blancan
Viewed  21 04 07 Tyneside Cinema Ticket Price £6-20

You’re in the army now….
This is a war movie with an angle – the angle being that the group of buddies whom we follow are members of a regiment raised in Algeria and comprising of native Algerians.  They are in effect fighting for the colonial occupying power, and their propensity to enlist and fight was engendered through ignorance poverty and a desire perhaps to get outside the enclaves in which their French masters and the Pieds Noirs{‘Algerians’- of European origin) have sequestered them.

The original French title of the movie is more interesting that the one they have given it for the US and UK theatrical circuit.  ‘Natives’ is probably the accurate translation of the original title – Les Indigines –  and it points up the ironic nature of the film’s account of how native Algerians fought to liberate La Patrie, the motherland from the Germans 1943-1945.  For ‘the Natives’, notional citizens of France, read; expendable cannon fodder. At this time Algeria was a department of France but Algerians, of non European extraction were second class citizens, who volunteered to fight for abstract political ideas (liberty equality fraternity)  from which they were, by virtue of their race (dirty arabs), excluded and for the freedom of a country which was remote and in practice, hostile and contemptuous of them.  The film plays up the contradictions endemic in this situation by developing these ironically counterpoised ideas in a number of characteristic sequences: the love affair between the arab liberator and French woman which generates sexual tension and suppressive counteraction: the fucked up and unjust discrimination endemic in the army – the denial of best rations and leave to the arab soldiers – the denial of promotion and recognition of bravery;  and the fact that the French army cynically regarded these troops as more expendable than their true blooded white Gallic counterparts with the consequence that the Algerian regiments were assigned the most dangerous and  hazardous operations with resulting heavy loss of life and limb.

But in some senses these psychic conditions applied to many of those fighting on the allied side against the Germans.  The regiments raised by Britain in Asia of course, but also perhaps many of the American troops, the farm boys and slum dwellers of the big northern cities, and the black Americans. There is a sense in which they were not fighting their war, and motives and reasons for these groups fighting would have had similarities to their Algerian counterparts. They certainly shared some of the prejudices and vicious if not lethal discrimination experienced by the Algerian regiments, in particular those who were Afro-Caribbean.   Though all US troops will have received the same pay, many  in particular the Afro Caribbean’s if they survived the war, returned to a country whose socio political structure was in critical ways,  alien.  War certainly in recent times is often if not generally soldiered by the underprivileged and lumpen populations who have least claim on the privileges of the socio-political entities for which they fight.

Aside from Les Indigines as a ironic observation and a polemical demand for the  correction of the mean  neglect of and denial of full pension rights by the French state to these soldiers( a point that Les Indigines by highlighting their situation, helped to put right  by restoring to the ex-soldiers full pensions – although belatedly when most will have been dead) the film is disappointing. It is just another war film.  Its well shot and the action sequences are realised with some effect.  There’s no sense of otherness, there is no entering into another point of view, there is no sense in which we see a world of different subjectivities.  The film remains firmly fixated on the exterior.  Les Indigines feels like it is missing a dimension.  We don’t get any feeling of how this experience is moulding  these men, making them perceive the world in a different way.  Les Indigines is worthy both in intent to help correct an injustice and as a buddy realisation but otherwise like most war films limited in ambition.
adrin neatrour
adrinuk@yahoo.co.uk

Author: Adrin Neatrour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.