14 June 2008
INDIGENES / DAYS OF GLORY (Dir. Rachid Bouchareb, 2006, France)
Released in 2006, many critics referred to Days of Glory as an alternative to Saving Private Ryan, as both dealt with the events of world war II through the eyes of ordinary soldiers. Whereas Spielberg's apolitical war film is much celebrated for it's opening Omaha beach landing sequence that lasts for over thirty minutes, the rest of the film unfolds in a predictably conventional manner and offers no new engagement with the events of World War II. I would go as far as to say that Saving Private Ryan is not even a war film, but an old fashioned sentimental melodrama that has been horrifically over praised by most critics, and to be frank, the opening sequence should not be referred to as realism at it's finest because no such notion of realism exists within a film that is motivated by nothing but style. When Hollywood does history it usually presents a version of the truth that is not only tainted but reinforces the ideological values of the dominant classes. The vast majority of Hollywood war films concerned with depicting the events of the second world war have consistently presented a consensually manufactured and idealistic view of American intervention, and films like Saving Private Ryan seem only to offer war as a kind of entertaining spectacle that limits any attempts at revising history and challenging our perceptions. Though Rachid Bouchareb's film about the story of North African soldiers and their involvement and contribution to the war effort may not be the best directed war film you will ever come across, the intentions behind it are extremely noble and very significant in the revisionist approach it takes to hugely important historical events. This is a genre film that shows world war II through the perspective of soldiers who have been historically sidelined in our eyes, with indigenous soldiers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia fighting alongside the French army but being made to suffer many forms of discrimination on a daily basis. Though the film has been produced for a mainstream audience with many notable battle sequences, the cast is made up of recognisable Arab actors who have been successful in French cinema. This was a commercial gamble that has paid off and the film has become culturally influential in French politics, affecting a change in policy towards the treatment of war veterans. This is a film which has been able to affect change within society, and it is exceptional for the revisionist approach it takes to a genre that has always been strongly associated with American cinema.
Labels: French Cinema