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Days of Glory (2006 film)

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Days of Glory (French: Indigènes; Arabic:بلديون) is a 2006 French film directed by French-Algerian Rachid Bouchareb. The cast includes Sami Bouajila, Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem and Bernard Blancan.

The film deals primarily with the discriminatory treatment of colonial Africans by the white French (the French title translates as Natives). This issue led to a change in the French government's policy sixty years later.[1]

Plot

The film begins in North Africa where large numbers of indigènes (Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccan Goumiers) have been recruited into the French First Army of the Free French Forces, that has been formed to liberate France of the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Saïd, an impoverished goat herder, tells his mother he is going to join the French Army. Upset, she reminds him that his own grandfather left in 1914 and he never came back. With a single hug he leaves and gets on the trucks. Saïd is drafted into the 7th Algerian Tirailleur Regiment along with several other Berber men who each has his own reasons for joining up to fight for France. Yassir is seeking booty so that he can return home and his brother can marry, Messaoud wants to marry and settle in France and Corporal Abdelkader, who is literate, is fighting in the hope of equality and recognition of the rights of the colonised Algerians. Soon the men, who are kitted out in lend-lease American uniforms meet Sergeant Martinez, a battle-hardened pied noir, who trains them before leading them on their first mission in the Italian Campaign. Their mission is to capture a heavily-defended mountain from the Germans. It soon becomes clear that their white commanding officer is using the colonial troops as cannon fodder to identify artillery targets. The African troops eventually succeed, but the tactics result in high casualties among the colonial troops. After the battle a French war correspondent asks the white colonel what his thoughts are on the losses; the senior officer snaps back that "today was a great victory for the Free French Forces", reminding the reporter to print exactly what he said. The troops of the 7th ATR are then transported to France to participate in Operation Dragoon to liberate the south of France.[2] While aboard ship it soon becomes clear that discrimination exists throughout the French Army when a white cook refuses to give tomatoes to black soldiers. Abdelkader calls for equality but the mutiny is averted when Martinez and the company Captain assures everyone will be treated the same.

On arrival at Marseilles, the colonial troops are greeted as heroes. Each of the main characters experiences a different aspect of French national life. One of the soldiers, Messaoud, meets Irène, a French woman; although initially nervous, he engages her in a relationship. When his regiment leaves, he promises to write and to return. She says she'll wait for him and they will marry. (It is later shown that the French authorities are censoring mail between Arab men and white French women, and so Irène never learns Messaoud's fate).

Saïd, in the meantime, has become Martinez's orderly, for which the other soldiers call him "wench". Eventually, he snaps and holds a knife to Messaoud's throat. Abdelkader calms the situation, but Saïd makes it clear that in this segregated world the French authorities will not give their African soldiers anything. Over a glass of wine, Saïd mentions to the sergeant that they are both alike, as he had seen the picture of Martinez with his Arab mother; the NCO—a self-hating Arab—attacks him, and threatens to kill Saïd if he reveals this secret.

The colonial troops are constantly fighting but they are never given leave. Again it is revealed that, while white Free French Forces are given leave to return home in France, the African troops are never given a break. Eventually the troops are told they are going home, but it's a ruse; instead, they are billeted behind the lines and are given a ballet performance. Bored and disillusioned, most leave the tent and hold a meeting outside decrying the injustice. Martinez challenges the group, led by Cpl Abdelkader, and a fight starts.

Early the next morning, French MPs bring Messaoud to a temporary stockade where Abdelkader is also being held. Messaoud tells the corporal he was arrested for trying to go back to Marseilles and find Irène. Abdelkader is brought before the white Colonel who tells him that he needs him to go on a special mission: to take ammunition to American troops fighting in the Lorraine Campaign and also be the first French troops to liberate Alsace. The white officer promises that Abdelkader and the other African soldiers will get the rewards and recognition that success in this operation demands. Later the white company captain tells the corporal that the colonel will keep his word.

Most of the men are killed by a booby trap, including Yassir's brother, as they cross the German lines. Martinez has been severely injured. Most of the troops want to return to their side, but Abdelkader rallies them to push on using the words of the French Colonel. Eventually the corporal, Saïd, Messaoud (who was released from custody as he is the company's best sniper), Yassir and the badly wounded Martinez reach an Alsatian village.

The villagers welcome them. Over the next few days the soldiers ingratiate themselves into the area, and Saïd befriends a milkmaid. Eventually, however, a battle begins when a company of Germans arrive, and everyone except Abdelkader is killed by the Wehrmacht soldiers. However just as the corporal is cornered more colonial troops arrive and drive the Germans out the village.

As columns of Free French forces begin to move through the area, Abdelkader sees the colonel passing in his jeep, but the white commanding officer ignores him and he is pulled away by a staff officer who asks him where his unit is. When Abdelkader says they are all dead, he is simply assigned to another white NCO. As he walks out of the village, he passes a film cameraman filming only white troops standing by the liberated villagers.

The movie then moves to the present day. An elderly Abdelkader visits a war cemetery in Alsace to visit the graves of his comrades: Martinez, Saïd, Yassir and Messaoud. He then returns to his small rundown flat in modern-day France. The film then concludes with the credit to say that the servicemen from France's former colonies had their pensions frozen in 1959 shortly before their countries' independence.

Cast

  • Jamel Debbouze - Saïd Otmari
  • Samy Naceri - Yassir
  • Roschdy Zem - Messaoud Souni
  • Sami Bouajila - Abdelkader
  • Bernard Blancan - Sergent Roger Martinez
  • Mathieu Simonet - Caporal Leroux
  • Assaad Bouab - Larbi
  • Benoît Giros - Capitaine Durieux
  • Mélanie Laurent - Margueritte village Vosges
  • Antoine Chappey - Le colonel
  • Aurélie Eltvedt - Irène
  • Thomas Langmann - Le journaliste
  • Thibault de Montalembert - Capitaine Martin
  • Dioucounda Koma - Touré (as Diouc Koma)
  • Philippe Beglia - Rambert

Modern relevance

While each has his own motives, these native Africans have enlisted to fight for a France they have never seen. In the words of Le Chant des Africains the four actors sing within the film, "we come from the colonies to save the motherland, we come from afar to die, we are the men of Africa." The film shows a complex depiction of their treatment in an army organisation prejudiced in favour of the European French.[1]

The discrimination by the French authorities against these soldiers continued as successive French governments froze the war pensions of these indigenous veterans when their countries became independent. The closing credits of the film state that, despite the ruling that war pensions should be paid in full, successive French administrations since 2002 had not done so. It was only after the film's release that the government policy was changed to bring foreign combatant pensions into line with what French veterans are paid.[3]

Awards

Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila and Bernard Blancan won the Prix d'interprétation masculine at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to The Lives of Others.

References

External links

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Days of Glory (2006 film). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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