Well the Oscar nominations came out this morning and I am sad to report that France’s official pick Of Gods and Men is not nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film Category. *Le sigh.* However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a French film among the five nominees. Algeria’s entry: “Outside the Law” (Hors La Loi) is actually a Franco-Belgian-Algerian co-production featuring French actors Melanie Laurent and Jamel Debbouze and directed by a Frenchman, Rachid Bouchareb. Since Oscar rules do not allow Foreign Language nominees to have more than one country of origin, Outside The Law was selected to represent Algeria, while France went with Des Dieux et des Hommes a thoughtful drama that is actually also set in Algeria.
Rachid Bouchareb, the director of Outside The Law, is no stranger to the Oscars. His films Dust of Life (Poussières de Vie) and Days of Glory (Indigenes) were nominated for the 1996 and 2006 Oscars respectively. He’s also no stranger to controversy. Little Senegal, about a man searching for the descendants of his enslaved family 300 years later, caused a stir on the international film festival scene. Indigenes and Hors La Loi are the first installments in a trilogy exploring the (troubled and complicated) history between France and Algeria. Indigenes tells the little known story of the North-African troops fighting for France’s freedom, in the French army, during WWII. It brought attention to the uneven pensions received by these veterans. The national discussion that took place following the release of the film led then-President Jacques Chirac to take action and even out the pensions. Hors La Loi begins where Indigenes left off, at the end of World War II, with the intensification of Algeria’s independence movement. It follows three brothers who take different paths towards freedom and features a grueling scene depicting the Setif massacre, which saw some 10,000 Algerians slaughtered by the French army.
I personally haven’t seen Hors La Loi yet because it hasn’t quite made it to DC. Now that it’s nominated for an Oscar, I will finally have a few opportunities to do so and see what prompted protests at the film’s opening during the Cannes Film Festival. Rachid’s movie will be included in National Geographic’s Global Glimpses Foreign Language Film Nominees showcase on February 18-10th, 2011. It will also be included the North African Film Festival presented by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Focusing on the films of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, the festival offers four screenings, one on each Thursdays this February. Each (free) screening will start at 7PM and will be followed by a discussion.
– Feb 3 at 7PM: the romantic comedy Cairo Time
– Feb 10 at 7PM: Jacques Doillon’s 2003 film Raja
– Feb 17 at 7PM: Bab’Aziz – The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul
– Feb 24 at 7PM: Outside The Law (just on time for the Oscars 3 days later!)
Additionally, the North African Film Festival is also presenting a “Perspectives on Algerian Cinema” roundtable on Sunday, Feb. 20th (1-4PM) where actor Danny Glover (let’s hope he doesn’t get arrested this time!) and a panel that includes Director of National Algerian Cinema Ahmed Bedjaoui, former Black Panther member Kathleen Cleaver, film scholar Manthia Diawara, and historian of visual culture Nicholas Mirzoeff will share their thoughts on Algerian film and visual culture. The conversation moderated by Mbaye Cham of Howard University and is co-sponsored with Howard University and supported by the Algerian Ministry of Culture. The panel discussion will take place at the National Museum of American History’s Carmichael Auditorium on 14th & Constitution Ave, NW.
The North African Film Festival is a free event taking place in Lecture Hall, Sublevel 2 at 950 Independence Avenue SW on Thursday evenings (7PM) in February. For more information visit: africa.si.edu
** Because of the overwhelming public response, the National Museum of African Art will offer TWO screenings of Hors La Loi. Thursday February 24: 2PM Matinee screening at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW (Lecture Hall) AND 7PM Evening screening at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Avenue, SW (Mezzanine, Sublevel 1 and Lecture Hall, Sublevel 2). The 7PM screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with Ahmed Bedjaoui, director of National Algerian Cinema, and Ahmed Achrati, academic director of Arabic Language & Culture Institute for High School Students, Georgetown University School of Continuing Education.**