The Battle of Algiers (1965)
What can a 39-year old docudrama about a colonial war in North Africa tell us today? Maybe more than we'd like to know. The Battle of Algiers shows how ragtag forces, with little real firepower behind them, were able to paralyze a Western army and drive that army into reliance on torture and other desperate measures, which ultimately fail. Commissioned by the Algerian government after it achieved independence from France and directed in crude, swift fashion by Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers remains astonishing because it is an officially sanctioned statement about the value of terrorism to achieve political ends. (The scene showing a bomb set by Algerian rebels detonating in a soda shop retains a visceral power, even though subsequent events have far outstripped it in magnitude.) This movie became a sort of political wet dream for Western leftists in the 1960s; the Black Panthers made it required viewing. The atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001 should make it required viewing at the White House.