The Battle of Algiers
September 7, 2003 8:38 AM   Subscribe

The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece from 1966, was studied closely by the Black Panthers as a training manual for violent uprising against a colonial overlord. Similarly, the Israeli government banned the film until 1975 for fear that the nascent Palestine Liberation Organization would use it as an inspiration for attacks on Israelis. Now, the Pentagon is sitting down with popcorn and notepads. While the film is difficult to find in the U.S., the script is online here. Can (or will) the Pentagon make use of the lessons it contains? Is it too late? What film of literary works would you recommend to teach people about resistance... or how to overcome it?
posted by stonerose (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite or literary works.
posted by stonerose at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2003

Independence Day.

Sniggers and runs away
posted by Blue Stone at 9:04 AM on September 7, 2003

posted by carfilhiot at 9:28 AM on September 7, 2003

How about Red Dawn?
posted by inksyndicate at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2003

It has been my experience that if you have to recommend a book on resistance.
1. your talking to an agent provocateur
2. Your trying to sound tough and smart

3 (your) trying to recruit minions who would give out anyones address once they where caught smoking dope.

4. (most prevalent) YOU WANNA GET LAID by that skinny beret girl with a scowl
posted by clavdivs at 10:08 AM on September 7, 2003

first blood.
posted by poopy at 10:12 AM on September 7, 2003

This film is remarkable. If you can get a copy, it's well worth viewing. It's what Bloody Sunday wanted to be.
posted by kcalder at 10:26 AM on September 7, 2003

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
posted by pooligan at 10:26 AM on September 7, 2003

Well, one classic of resistance is Heinlein's great and overlooked The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but I don't know if anyone has ever tried basing an actual revolution on it.

It's clear from the way the Pentagon showing framed it that they're well aware of the limitations of the French strategy in Algeria. (Repercussions from the civil war, which was mired in stalemate, led to a coup d'etat by Algerian colonists which forced the fall of the Fourth Republic in Paris, the accession of De Gaulle, and a new constitution.) Algeria is also instructive in other ways. For one, the colonial experience there was deeper than in many other places, with the possible exception of British India. The colonists truly thought of themselves as Algerian, and Algerian culture seemed to have become both French and integral to France (the latter, ironically, remains true in some ways). At the same time the political rights of the indigenous Algerians were impossibly limited, and to give them self-determination seemed destined to mean independence, and thus disenfranchisement of even multi-generational colonists -- but without self-determination, civil war was inevitable. France had no good choices. At its extreme, then, this is similar to the dilemma of the West regarding the Middle East, and of the US in Iraq.
posted by dhartung at 10:32 AM on September 7, 2003

Battle of Algiers is a stunning, stunning film. Well worth seeking out if you have a good video store that has an old copy of it on VHS.

Another excellent film that provides insight into the mindset of resistance fighters/terrorists and politicians is Costa-Gavras' State of Siege (1973).
posted by filmgoerjuan at 10:46 AM on September 7, 2003

Not that I've read them, but how about Asimov's Foundation series? I believe a certain Mr. bin Laden is reputed to have drawn inspiration therefrom.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:47 AM on September 7, 2003

Not to mention that the Iraqi army, Time magazine wrote last March, prepared for the US attack by watching Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down"

I believe a certain Mr. bin Laden is reputed to have drawn inspiration therefrom.
what is the origin of the name al-Qaida? Giles Foden on how Bin Laden may have been inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation

While the film is difficult to find in the U.S.,
VHS on
DVD on (but you'll need a hacked, multi-zone DVD player)
posted by matteo at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2003

Four copies of the tape are available on eBay plus a related t-shirt for the interested.

matteo: I don't think that the Iraqis got much value out of watching that one, except perhaps the emotional.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:09 AM on September 7, 2003

What does the Penatagon See In 'Battle for Algiers?'.

amazing, just amazing...
the story is there to show readers that France has committed crimes against Muslims.
posted by clavdivs at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2003

I'd say asimov's foundation books are more based on the idea of control of a society then revolution. The basic theme to the books is that it is possible to mathmatically predict the politics and society (that is spread throughout the galaxy) and therefore what happens to the society over generations that know the predictions have been made (...then the later books focus on how to create small effects which change the direction of the results to match the predictions...needless to say it's hard to sum up a few thousand pages in a paragraph).
posted by NGnerd at 11:35 AM on September 7, 2003

Slate article on this topic.
posted by donth at 11:37 AM on September 7, 2003

Things change. The past is past and new tech stuff has altered much. People invent on the spot, ie, Arab suicide bombers as tool against superior military of Israel. Hide among civies (ME, Iraq etc)...learn to fly plane and so forth.
posted by Postroad at 12:39 PM on September 7, 2003

let's stay out of the science fiction realm.
The "hated lunar authority" could be anything metaphorically.

Uber-MIKE is kinda cool. But they attributes of Mycroft do not seem to fit the attributes of a computer. Remember Moriarity was Sherlocks' superior in intellect. Mycroft also was superior to Sherlocks' intellect. Of course wisdom is the real key. Mycroft decided to create a situation unique, as Holmes said , in the empire. This position was used for good. Mycrofts equal, Moriarity, uses his talents for evil and Astronomy. Some say that Moriarity was both Sherlock and Mycrofts' teacher but I do not think so.

well, in context, if the british empire where to become evil in the victorian age, then perhaps Mycroft would led a revolution...

so the talk is revolution, right? revolutionary movies and what context may be wrought to the current situation in Iraq?

Well, i said it all along, the iraqi people need an army....
they need police and most likely a secret police. ( everyone has one)
that is the real question is it not
who will create/supply/train these new forces.
well police is being worked on
no ones taking about a new iraqi army
and the secret police question i dare say is the $100 billion atop the bell in the pledge hammer carnival game.
posted by clavdivs at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2003

Wasp (1957) by Eric Frank Russell. A brilliant little piece of speculative fiction about a war in which a man, disguised as a native, is inserted into enemy territory and told to wreak havoc on a small scale, based on the analogy that even a small wasp can distract an automobile driver into crashing his car. The infiltrator's tiny disruptive acts are mostly subtle, ingeniously designed illusions -- rumour mongering, propaganda, fake sabotage, although the list also contains selective assassinations and bomb mailing -- that eventually convinces the paranoid enemy that a large rebel army is on its hands, and chaos ensues. It's fiendishly clever, amoral satire, as readable today as when it was published. I daresay it would not have been permitted to be published in the US today; it's a terrorist's virtual cookbook.
posted by gentle at 1:02 PM on September 7, 2003

The Weather Underground was an excellent film about the Students for a Democratic Society (and, tangentially, Black Panther) resistance movements in the US that experimented with terrorism in the 60s and 70s. They interviewed the actual participants, some of whom were in jail. The film The Dancer Upstairs (loosely based on Peru's guerrilla organization The Shining Path), though not as fully grounded in truth, was also instructive and oddly moving. The movie was released a few months ago and directed by John Malkovich. (Little known fact about this film is that Malcovich himself played role of Ezequiel the terrorist, in heavy makeup, billed as "Abel Volk," i.e., able folk. Heh.)

Both films show what can become a very thin line between terrorist movements and the forces that hunt them down. The Weather Underground in particular shows how the SDS was ultimately pushed in the direction of violence as their peaceful dissent against the war and racism were marginalized by the government (in fact the film suggests the govt/cointelpro had their best speakers killed off to silence the group's effectiveness). Of course, the violence merely alienated them from mainstream America.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:11 PM on September 7, 2003

(Er, not that I'm suggesting counter-terrorist measures are terrorism, just that if and when they start to work outside of the law, these films suggest that there are fewer ways to distinguish them from the evil they're fighting against.)
posted by onlyconnect at 1:21 PM on September 7, 2003

Wretched of the Earth, of course, but I would love for US administrators in Iraq who are blown away that more Iraqis won't help them to read Black Skin, White Masks.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:09 PM on September 7, 2003

"Z" by Costa Gravas
posted by ahimsakid at 4:44 PM on September 7, 2003

let's stay out of the science fiction realm.

Yeah, ignore that guy George Lucas waving and pointing at himself over there.
posted by wendell at 5:04 PM on September 7, 2003

Catcher in the Rye for all those would be assassins...
posted by Eloquence at 5:39 PM on September 7, 2003

posted by y2karl at 6:07 PM on September 7, 2003

An interesting entry in the urban warfare howto list would be the Turner Diaries.

Overall the book is rather turgid racewar propaganda which will only appeal to angry white men who start to find Mike Savage too lefty and queer-lovin'.

However, the first half of the book is an interesting primer on urban terrorism and how to wage a campaign in the shadows using disconnected cells which are under partial surveillance from an very strong central government which gradually curtails civil liberties using laws similar to the Patriot Act. The book details small acts of terrorism and propaganda slowly building up to a 9-11 style attack which destroys the FBI headquarters and eventually allows the guerrillas to come above ground.
posted by pandaharma at 9:49 PM on September 7, 2003

An interesting entry in the urban warfare howto list would be the Turner Diaries.

no, it would not.
posted by clavdivs at 10:01 AM on September 8, 2003

Anybody seen 2009 Lost Memories? Not exactly a resistance movie so much as a Korean version of Dick's "Man in the High Castle". A "What if" scenario based on an actual act of Korean resistance to Japan before WW2.

Simon Booth sets the scenario, "The year is 2009, but it's a 2009 in an alternate history to ours, where Japan fought with the US in World War II and won... and still occupies and controls Korea. Most Koreans have accepted the state of affairs after 100 years, but there is still a small band of terrorists/freedom fighters that want to see Korea regain independence."
posted by infowar at 1:25 PM on September 8, 2003

« Older Engines of Our Ingenuity   |   Hey, sailor, new in tow-BZZZZZZZZZ Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments