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Indigenes - Days Of Glory

Days of Glory is a building, provocative war movie about multi-national WWII veterans suffering indignities decades after African soldiers die for an unappreciative homeland.


Days of Glory's significance lies more off screen than on--an ambitious feat for a $16 million Algerian war movie. Set in WWII, when nearly 700,000 North African soldiers fought for France, Days of Glory follows a racially divided French brigade. Their mission culminates in a bloody showdown in Alsace. Racism and religious differences contribute to lingering suspicion for the unpaid pensions. French president Jacques Chirac announced last September after seeing the film that he would reverse a 47-year-old policy of freezing war pensions for the widows of expatriate African Army soldiers that fought for France. Chirac's proclamation affects 80,000 people at $140 million annually.


An international cast of talented young men won kudos at 2006's Cannes Film Festival for best ensemble. French actor Samy Naceri--currently imprisoned for racist assault against a police officer--is ferocious as an assassin. His screen presence is truly that of a superstar, his eyes that of a crazed soldier and his posture unpredictable. Roschdy Zem--a politically active actor in France--is beautifully doomed as Messaoud, an infantryman called up and lovesick for a woman uninterested in him. We love Messaoud, as he discovers the urban wonders of France, but his country-boy dumbness tells us right away he'll perish. Moroccan actor Jamel Debbouze and Frenchman Sami Bouajla round out the lead military. The ensemble is not in the classic tradition of, say, Apocalypse Now or the storytelling as compelling and slick as Flags of Our Fathers. But Days of Glory is a war movie for the DVD shelf, especially for the politically active.


Rachid Bouchareb, an Algerian filmmaker with deep roots in French immigration, has crafted an emotionally explosive war film, powerful in its social relevance. Bouchareb co-wrote the script with Olivier Lorelle after touring Africa and France and visiting the French Defense Ministry. It's not always an easy task, however (Home of the Brave, anyone?). While the CG-enhanced explosions are thrilling, momentum is slow-going until the Alsace climax. But the emotional resonance makes up for it. The soldiers' faces are crazy, naïve or headstrong, often what we seem from young men in battle. The timeless, international setting is also relevant to American viewers, dealing with the costs of their own current war. French subtitles may limit the megaplex potential of Days of Glory stateside, but its recent Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language film may add credibility.