Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Days of Glory |
Actors: Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Jamel Debbouze, Bernard Blancan
Director: Rachid Bouchareb
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
(War/Action) Set during WWII, North African soldiers enlist in the French army and battle their way across Europe to liberate the "fatherland" and confront discrimination.
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Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY
Reviewed on 10/23/2010...
Worthy memorial to forgotten North African soldiers of WW II
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Days of Glory' is similar to Spike Lee's 'Miracle at St. Anna' as both films deal with the subject of a minority group's contribution to the war effort in World War II. In Lee's film, the focus is on African-Americans and in 'Days of Glory', Arabic-speaking North Africans. The value of both films are that they chronicle the little-known history of discrimination against these minority group soldiers despite all their sacrifices made during wartime.
Toward the beginning of the film, the North African soldiers win a small victory when a Captain rescinds the decision not to serve them tomatoes as part of the their daily rations on a transport ship. But more egregious examples of discrimination which are not reversed are shown such as allowing native 'white' Frenchmen leave while the North Africans get none. Similarly, the whites are always promoted to a higher rank and the Africans always remain in the same subordinate positions. Further resentment is bred when the news media sends pictures and newsreels back home of the white soldiers, giving the false impression that they were the ones doing most of the fighting when in actuality it was the North Africans who were responsible for the bulk of the hand-to-hand combat. The ultimate indignity is referenced at the end of the picture when we learn that all pensions of the North African soldiers were frozen following independence of the French colonies. It's my understanding that this injustice has not been redressed, even to this day.
'Glory' focuses on four soldiers at the beginning of their conscription in North Africa, their initial foray into Italy in 1944 and finally, combat operations against the Germans in France proper. We meet Said, an impoverished Algerian goat farmer who signs up despite the protestations of his mother who fears she'll lose him in combat. The actor who plays Said, Jamel Debbouze, actually has one arm in real life, and must keep the missing appendage in his pocket throughout the film in order to maintain the illusion that he's not handicapped. It turns out that Debbouze is actually one of the film's producers who contributed a bit of money to the film's production, so it appears they could not avoid using him.
The trick in a movie like this is to avoid hagiography by showing each soldier with an inner life and enough conflict between them to keep things interesting. Perhaps the least successful is the character of Messaoud who falls in love with a French woman and is thwarted by the military censors when the letters he sends to her are never received. The other thing we learn about Messaoud is that he joins the majority of the other soldiers in the unit, taunting Said after Staff Sergeant Martinez makes him his orderly. Said puts a knife to Messaoud's throat as he can no longer endure the taunts which imply that he's Martinez's 'girl'. Messaoud eventually goes AWOL due to the aforementioned discriminatory leave policy in an attempt to see his French lover. He's restored after the brass realize they cannot dispense with his skills as a marksman.
Corporal Abdelkader proves to be the film's protagonist. He becomes a corporal after taking an exam (equivalent to a lieutenant in the US Army) and becomes the voice for the rights of the native African minority soldiers. Abdelkader faces Sgt. Martinez down on the ship, winning the right to have the tomatoes served to the men. Later, he's put in the brig after getting into a fight with Martinez over the Army leave policy (instead of the soldiers getting leave, they're forced to watch a French ballet performance inside a tent). Despite Abdelkader's militancy, he's also loyal to France and proves to be courageous in battle. So it's quite sad to see how he's not recognized at war's end and ends up a defeated, lonely man living in a small flat in France, far from his homeland.
There's also Yassir, a Moroccan of Berber extraction (one of the Moroccan 'Gourmier' soldiers) who joins in the soldering for the money. There's a good scene where another soldier prevents him from bashing in the mouth of a dead German soldier and extracting his gold fillings. Later, Yassir is devastated when his brother is killed in combat.
Perhaps the best character in the film is Sgt. Martinez, the 'Pied Noir' (a French national whose ancestors probably were of Spanish extraction who had settled in Algeria). Martinez considers himself thoroughly French and does not want to be associated with the Arab culture. When Said discovers a picture of his Arabic mother and asks him about it, Martinez beats him up and warns him not to tell anyone upon pain of death. Martinez gives 'Days of Glory' its flavor as he is almost brutal in the way he treats his troops but at the same time, sticks up for them when dealing with the higher-ups.
'Days of Glory' emulates many American pictures in its war scenes. There are some gripping battle scenes and the carnage and horror of war is ably depicted (one unforgettable iconic image shows the soldiers eating a meal with a dead horse in a ditch right in front of them). The battle scene at the end of the picture however, where the unit faces off against a much larger group of Germans in a small town, doesn't really ring true. The Germans march into town, taking no cover, and are picked off too easily by the North Africans.
'Days of Glory' is a worthy addition to the pantheon of World War II films. The characters are not all fleshed out but we do learn a great deal of the history of the discrimination endured by these heroic soldiers. Unlike the bloated 'Miracle of St. Anna', 'Glory' feature economical editing coupled with a soundtrack highlighted by some haunting Middle Eastern songs.
A sweeping war picture
Z. Freeman | Austin, TX | 06/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What is there to say about a film as moving, triumphant, and expertly executed on all accounts as "Days of Glory"? Its praises have been sung by most reviewers, even earning an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film. "Days of Glory" is an Americanized title, but one that still manages to capture the essence of the film. The original Algerian title is Indigenes, a word used to describe the hundreds of thousands of indigenous soldiers from colonial Africa who fought for France in World War II. Clearly "Indigenous Soldiers" isn't as powerful a title.
Although "Days of Glory" is a sweeping war picture that has been aptly compared to other war dramas like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Glory", at heart it is still a character study, focusing on four Muslim soldiers as they maneuver through the rough terrain on the war field, and the somewhat rougher terrain of racial inequality and injustice in their own camp. Prepared to battle for what they call the "motherland", the North African soldiers who signed up find themselves unsure of how to react to the rampant racism demonstrated by their sergeants.
Each character may be a well-known archetype of war movies (the headstrong leader, the humble and uneducated soldier, the mercenary, the lover) but each actor has the skill and the desire to flesh these characters out into completely realistic and believable people. The acting is intense and honest and watching these men throughout their mission is all the more moving as we are able to see real emotions, desires, and fears. These actors have completely invested themselves into the film, and into their characters, earning a special male ensemble award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the "making of" documentary included on the DVD, lead actor (and producer) Jamel Debbouze tells of how director Rachid Bouchareb approached his four main actors not only with the script, but also with the paperwork showing that each of their grandfathers had actually been involved in the war. This may shed some light on the dedication these men showed in telling this important story. A story so important that it led to French President Jacques Chirac restoring the pensions of the empire veterans (whose pensions we learn in the film were frozen in 1959). In the film's touching final moments, as one of the leads walks the streets in anonymity, we begin to fully understand the completely unrewarded sacrifice these men have made for a country that chose not to reward them... until almost 50 years later.
Bouchareb has finally brought his dream project to life. After trying to get it produced for over a decade, it is abundantly clear that the final product justifies the wait and the effort on so many levels. "Days of Glory" is the kind of film that inspires people to accomplish more and to look for the greatness in others."
A movie worth watching!
L Gontzes | Athens, Greece | 04/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Days of Glory, brings to the screen a WWII tale of a French Algerian Unit facing discrimination by its European counterparts due to prejudice and ignorance.
It is 1943 and the setting is North Africa. The French armed forces are preparing to land troops in Europe to win back their homeland from the Axis Powers, but they cannot accomplish their task without recruiting men from their African colonies. The Africans themselves start their long journey full of hope and anticipation, but as they get closer to their goal they realize that their enemy is not necessarily the Germans...
Jamel Debbouze (Asterix and Obelix-Mission Cleopatra) and the rest of the cast carry out their performances very well.
In short, the music, the acting, the plot, the setting (!), and the dialogues are all very good.
In a nutshell, Days of Glory is movie definitely worth watching, as it will surely provide for an evening's entertainment.
'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity': Nationalism and its Abuses
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Indigènes' (DAYS OF GLORY) as written by Olivier Lorelle and Rachid Bouchareb (who also directed) is a film of visceral power, another aspect of World War II that has not been addressed and that points to problems of inequality among fighting troops that still exists. It is a grisly film (how can a film about war not be?) but shares a viewpoint that is as shocking as it is important.
During WWII the French military incorporated African men including a large number of Algerian soldiers to fight the Nazis and protect France (and, yes, its protectorates) from oppression. The story focuses on four of these Algerian soldiers who leave their homeland to fight for the ideals of France yet are victims of discrimination and inequality of treatment and advancement, even when they are selected to perform the most hazardous of duties. The men vary from idealist to illiterate but their sense of camaraderie is rock solid: Saïd Otmari (Jamel Debbouze) is unable to read or write and has only one arm, yet he is devoted to his mission of saving France and hence his family in Algeria; Yassir (Samy Naceri) proves to be a marksman and is the one selected to be front man during the most dangerous encounters; Messaoud Souni (Roschdy Zem) finds solace in the love of a French girl Irène (Aurélie Eltvedt) but his communications with her are censured by the military; Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) is the natural leader among the four yet is not advanced in rank when the Frenchmen are. The only non-Algerian who is supportive of these men is Sergeant Roger Martinez (Bernard Blancan) who attempts intervention with the French over the disillusioned Algerians. In many ways the story is related through the reactions of Abdelkader, especially the heartbreaking ending.
It is the final act of courage when these four men are assigned to assist the American forces in Alsace, an assignment so devastatingly dangerous that no other French forces would accept, that the love and devotion of these men is supremely tested. And as the fragile victory over the Nazis is claimed by the French, we see the last of the Algerian quartet walk unnoticed and uncelebrated through the freed Alsatian town. If the 60 years later ending of the film is a bit maudlin for some viewers, it still makes a solid statement about the courage of these men, fighting for a 'motherland' that all but ignored them. And the story is true!
The battle scenes are realistic, the acting is first caliber, and the production values are excellent, including the cinematography by Patrick Blossier and a musical score by Armand Amar and Cheb Khaled that enhances every aspect of a multicultural war. This is a film about WW II that stands with the best of the stories about the physical and emotional atrocities that war produces. In French and Arabic with subtitles. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 07"