The Battle of Algiers, a 1966 film that poetically captures Algerian resistance to French colonial occupation, is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, having influenced leftist and anti-colonial struggles from the Palestine Liberation Organization, to the Black Panther Party and the Irish Republican Army amongst others. But the film is more relevant and urgent than ever in the current “War on Terror” – having been screened by the Pentagon in 2003 and taught in Army war colleges as a blueprint for U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. This talk will examine the film as a “ghost archive” of competing narratives, a battleground over the meaning and memory of decolonization and Western power, and a site for challenging the current imperial consensus. As the “War on Terror” expands and the threat of the Muslim looms, the films’ afterlives reveal it to be more than an artifact of the past but rather a prophetic testament to the present and a cautionary tale of an imperial future, as perpetual war has been declared on permanent unrest.
About Sohail Daulatzai
Daulatzai’s is the founder of Razor Step, an L.A. based media lab. His work includes scholarship, essay, short film/video/installation and the curatorial. He is the author and co/editor of several books, including of Fifty Years of “The Battle of Algiers”: Past as Prologue; Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America; With Stones in Our Hands: Writings on Muslims, Racism and Empire; Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop; and Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic. He is the curator of the celebrated exhibit Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop and Histories Absolved: Revolutionary Cuban Poster Art and the Muslim International. His video/installation work includes short film essay pieces with Yasiin Bey, a ciné-geography with Zack de la Rocha, as well as an installation piece entitled cas·bah /ˈkazˌbä/noun, 1. A place of confinement for the natives, yet reclaimed. He wrote liner notes for the Sony Legacy Recordings Release of the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set of Rage Against the Machine’s self titled debut album, the liner notes for the DVD release of Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme, the centerpiece in the museum catalog Movement: Hip-Hop in L.A., 1980’s – Now, as well as an essay in iconic photographer Jamel Shabazz’s retrospective Pieces of a Man. His other writings have appeared in Artbound, The Nation, Counterpunch, Al Jazeera, Souls, and Wax Poetics, amongst others. He teaches in Film and Media Studies, African American Studies, and Global Middle East Studies at the University of California, Irvine.