Still from the trailer of The Battle of Algiers (1966) (screenshot via Rialto Pictures and YouTube)

Italian neorealist film The Battle of Algiers has been a radicalizing text for more than 50 years. France banned it. The Black Panthers, Irish Republican Army, and other groups studied its depictions of urban guerrilla violence. And here in the United States, long after its release in 1966, the critic Roger Ebert called it “the crucial film about this new kind of warfare” in his “Great Films” retrospective review of the film in 2004. And this weekend, New Yorkers have the uncommon opportunity to catch director Gillo Pontecorvo’s film in a screening of its 35 mm print, for free.

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Pontecorvo’s film shocked audiences in the ’60s with its brutal depictions of bombings, assassinations, and other insurgent tactics that have become commonplace in warfare in the decades following World War II. The film recreates the conflict in Algiers between 1954 and 1957, when rebel groups allied with Algeria’s National Liberation Front fought the occupying French army. The film is notable for its violence and its Ennio Morricone score, but also for its removed and newsreel-like visual style, which made Pontecorvo’s fictionalized depictions of freedom fighters and French officers all the more realistic and memorable. It will be screened as part of an exhibition at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery — Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora — and introduced by Richard Peña, a film professor at Columbia and the former program director of Film Society of Lincoln Center. The screening is free, but you’ll have to register to attend.

When: Saturday, November 09, 2019, 3 pm
Where: Lenfest Center for the Arts (615 W. 129 St., Manhattanville, New York)

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN,, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...