Title

Poaching within the system: Gillo Pontecorvo's tactical aesthetics in The Battle of Algiers

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Publication Source

Screen

Volume

55

Issue

3

Inclusive pages

317-337

DOI

10.1093/screen/hju022

Publisher

Oxford Journals

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

This essay deals with the relationship between aesthetics and politics in Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. Much of the interest Pontecorvo's film has generated since its release in 1965 has been contradictory. On the one hand it has been touted as a seminal work of Third Cinema, a movement defined by its political content and in which the camera is seen as a weapon of cultural intervention in the struggle against colonial and neocolonial oppression. On the other hand the film has been criticized for being equivocal politically and for representing the French colonial system in too positive a light to deliver a truly transformative message. By drawing a distinction between tactical and strategic or ideological equivocalness in The Battle of Algiers, this essay intervenes in the ongoing debate surrounding the film's meaning(s) and its status within Third Cinema, and provides a detailed explication of what might be considered an exemplary deployment of transformative postcolonial aesthetics. The essay argues that, though exposing the film to contradictory readings and uses, Pontecorvo's fusion of ‘documentary’ and fictional aesthetics, is a deliberate tactic used to hone the film's firm anticolonial position and ultimately to reinforce the film's efficacy as a subversive tool.

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