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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy (Algerian) Independence Day

50 years ago today, Algeria gained independence from France after a long and violent struggle. A couple of films worth watching on the subject are The Battle of Algiers (great movie, 1967, black and white, terrific performances) and Outside the Law (2010, also good performances somewhat controversial, nominated for an Academy Award).

Many self-appointed experts like to blather on about how Arabs, or Muslims in general, lack either the will to fight for freedom or the good sense to even want it. "A strong hand is the only thing they understand," is the sort of thing you hear on Fox News, but unfortunately you hear it a lot of other places too, generally spoken by someone who has never set foot un a Muslim country, much less lived in one. The experience of Algeria, along with Iran in the 1950s (when Mossadegh won an election, only to be removed by the US and UK at the behest of the oil companies), Pakistan under its various military rulers and Iraq right this very fucking second show this complacent and self-congratulatory Western mindset to be the bullshit that it is. Not to mention: Bangladesh in 1971, Turkey in the 1920s, Palestine since 1948, Kashmir, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, etc.

It's also great that French filmmakers and producers have been able to look at their unsavory role in Algeria with some measure of balance and self-awareness. One day, maybe, Americans will be able to do the same with Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe eventually... Hey, I can dream.

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