Friday, March 30, 2007


In the Best Film Category at this year's Academy Awards we had three films of undoubted brilliance: THE LIVES OF OTHERS, PAN'S LABYRINTH and AFTER THE WEDDING. Then we had two films characterised by worthy subject matter, impressive ensemble acting and stunning landscape photography: WATER and DAYS OF GLORY. Both films also share rather clumsy, melodramatic endings and in the fact that their big political points are so obvious to any reasonably liberal viewer that the movies become banal.

DAYS OF GLORY (a bizarre translation of the original French title, INDIGENES) is a political film. The point it makes powerfully is not, however, a subtle or complex one. During World War Two, France recruited soldiers from her North African colonies, shipped them to France, and used them to help her regain some military honour in repelling the Germans. However, while "German bullets do not pick and choose", the military establishment certainly did. Mainland French soldiers got better food, more leave, promotion and glory. The North Africans, while being sold an idea of the French motherland, were treated as second-class citizens. So much so that by the end of the film, the hero is living in poverty.

The movie is handsomely photographed, well-acted, and well-written by Rachid Bouchareb and Olivier Lorelle. I don't agree with some reviewers that the soldiers all follow "types" - the Uncle Tom, the radical, etc. Their conflicted loyalties to the French state are more subtle than that. However, as I said, this movie suffers - as most "issue" movies suffer - from too much hand-wringing, repetition, and preaching to the converted. Still, it is worth checking out - perhaps on DVD - and is notable for the fact that the French government actually changed its policies on war pensions for the North African soldiers.

DAYS OF GLORY/INDIGENES played Cannes, London and Toronto 2006 and opened in France, Belgium, Singapore, Malaysia and Sweden last year. It opened in the Netherlands and the US earlier this year and is currently playing in Spain and the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment