Inside a three-story villa, just built, with whitewashed walls.
An elevator shaft is empty, the large cables dangle.
On every landing two apartments. The front doors are wide open.
Whitewash on the floor of the halls, swirls of whitewash on the
windowpanes, naked light bulbs hung from electric wires. The rooms
contain hardly any furnishings.
The kitchens are still without sinks and stoves.
An agitated bustle, a rhythm of efficiency. Paratroopers go up and
down the stairs, pass along the halls, enter and leave the rooms.
The sounds in the background are indecipherable.
SHOUTED ORDERS, CRIES, HOWLS.
SHOUTS, HALF-SPOKEN REMARKS, LAUGHS.
SOMEWHERE A GRAMOPHONE IS PLAYING AT FULL BLAST.
The scene is tense. No pauses.
When the paras are tired, they move to another room.
They sit down, stretch out on the floor, drink coffee or beer, and
smoke cigarettes while awaiting the next shift. Suddenly, the rhythm
of this routine, the timing of these images is upset. A para rushes
down the stairs, and asks cheerfully while running:
The colonel. Where’s the colonel?
Why? What’s happening?
We know where Ali la Pointe is. One of
them “spoke” …
His voice echoes through the corridors, on the landings, from one
floor to another. The excitement is contagious. Many crowd around
the door of the kitchen.
The Algerian who has “spoken” is there. He is young with a thin face
and feverish eyes. The paras are all around him: they help him stand
up, dry him, clean his face with a rag, give him some coffee in a
thermos cover. They are full of attention, sincerely concerned. One
of them tries to push away the others.
C’mon, let him breathe!
Meanwhile others who are arriving ask if it is true.
So he spoke? Does he really know where
It seems so. We’ll go see. Give him a
Marc is tall and husky, his eyes young and cheerful. One of the others
asks him with a shade of admiration:
Hey Marc, you made him talk?
He then begins to smoke again, and moves aside to rest a bit. The
Algerian is trying to drink, but his hands are trembling. Someone
helps him and holds still the cover of the thermos, drawing it to his
C’mon Sadek … Drink, you’ll feel better.
The Algerian drinks, but his stomach can’t take it, causing him to
double over and vomit again.
Colonel Mathieu enters, elegant and graceful.
At ease. Is it true?
I think so. Rue des Abderames three …
The colonel turns to the para, who had gone to call him, and who is
holding a pair of camouflage fatigues in his hands.
Then he goes near the Algerian, lifts his chin, inspects him for a
moment with curiosity.
Chin up, it’s all over. Nothing can happen
to you now, you’ll see. Can you stand up?
The Algerian nods yes. The colonel turns to the paras who are holding
Let him go.
He takes the camouflage fatigues and hands them to the Algerian.
Here, put them on.
The Algerian mechanically takes the fatigues, but he doesn’t
understand. The colonel explains to him:
We’re trying to help you. We’re going to
the Casbah. Dressed like this, they won’t
be able to recognize you. Understand?
We’re going to see the place, then you’ll
be free … and under our protection …
The Algerian shivers from the cold. He is completely naked. He
laboriously puts on the fatigues which are too big for him.
Go on, give him the cap.
They give him a wide belt and buckle it. The other paras, one on either
side of him, pull up his sleeves to the elbows. A third places the cap
on his head and cocks it.
The colonel turn to him angrily:
Don’t be an idiot, Lagloy!
The Algerian is ready. The paras look at him repressing their laughter.
The Algerian continues to tremble. His breath is short, his eyes
glossy. He is crying.
The Algerian looks around. He breathes deeply. Then, suddenly,
unexpectedly, he lets out a hoarse cry:
and tries to jerk forward toward the window.
Marc seizes him immediately, and with his right hand grabs him by the
chest, almost lifting him. With his left hand he gives him two quick
slaps, not very hard.
What do you think you’re doing, you fool?
Do you want us to start all over again?
C’mon, be good. Don’t make me look like
an idiot in front of the others.
He makes a reassuring sign to the colonel. Then, he takes the Algerian
by the arms, and they move off.
2 STREETS OF ALGIERS. OUTSIDE. DAWN. OCTOBER 7, 1957.
The city is gray and white, by the sea which looks like milk. The dawn
outlines her features sharply.
The streets and wide avenues of the European quarters are empty.
Silence, until gradually is heard …
A HUMMING OF MOTORS.
One truck after another. Their headlights on, with an opaque glow, by
A line of trucks follow one another along the sea-front, all at the
They turn right and go up toward Place du Gouvernement.
Here, without stopping, the columns divide in two. The two lines enter
each of the two roads that lead up to surround the Casbah.
In the brighter light, the Casbah appears completely white, limestone.
Enclosed by the European city, it stands at a greater height and
Mosaic of terraces. White pavement, pavement interspersed by the black
outlays of narrow alleys. Only a jump from one terrace to another …
Agile and silent, the paras jump one by one from the trucks in a hurry.
SOUND OF TRUCKS.
They arrange themselves geometrically, their movements synchronized.
They disperse and disappear in the alleys.
They reappear together, then once again scatter.
They meet without looking at one another; each one takes his own
In like manner without a sound, they are above, even on the terraces,
in perfect geometry. Even up here, the paras tighten their grip …
3 RUE DES ABDERAMES. COURTYARD OF HOUSE. INSIDE/OUTSIDE. DAWN.
Every three yards, there is a para, even at all four corners of an
They are also in the side streets as well as the main streets.
And also above, against the sky, many other paras appear.
Number three. The doorway is the height of a man. A squadron stands
ready in a semicircle with machine guns in firing position.
Marc continues to hold up the Algerian by his arm.
The captain glances at his watch, then looks up at the terrace and
gives a signal.
In a lowered voice, without turning around, he speaks to the para who
is at his back:
The para nears the front door, his legs wide open, his machine gun,
clenched at his side, and aims at the lock.
MACHINE GUN FIRE.
He moves the gun barrel in a circular direction.
Immediately the others hurl themselves against the door.
At the same time, the door of the terrace is broken down, and the paras
burst into the house below.
The inner courtyard is square. In the center there is a well; above, a
patch of sky; on four sides, the arcades, columns, and majolica arches.
Beneath the porches, there is a door for every dwelling. And above, a
balcony with railings and other doors. The doors are wide open. The
paras quickly carry out their orders.
ORDERS, CURT AND BRIEF.
The people are used to all this and know how to obey. The scene takes
place exactly as if it were an arranged maneuver, a practice drill.
The rooms are emptied in a few seconds. The people are crowded together
in the courtyard.
Eyes wide with fright.
Men, women, and children with blankets and sheets thrown around their
shoulders. By now, it is almost day. A soft light is diffused from
The Algerian walks with his head lowered, Marc on one side, the captain
on, the other.
They climb to the first floor and go along the balcony.
The Algerian stops in front of a door.
The captain murmurs softly:
The Algerian nods yes. They enter.
4 ALI’S ROOM. INSIDE. DAWN.
The room is badly lit. There is a mattress on the floor, and another on
the table, a cupboard against the wall, some chairs. Nothing else. At
the back of the room to the left, there is a dividing curtain hung by a
cord at medium height. The curtain is drawn and a large bed with brass
headboards is visible. The Algerian points in that direction; the
captain signals for him to go there.
They go forward silently, and push aside the curtain. There is a small
light bulb hung on the wall beneath a small shelf covered with
postcards and photos.
The baseboard all around is more than three feet tall and is covered by
The Algerian points to a spot in the brick structure, on the back
wall, between the headboard of the bed and a corner of the room.
Marc and the captain have their machine guns ready. The captain goes
near the wall, his breath drawn, and begins to examine it.
He runs the fingernail of his thumb along the wall horizontally,
between one row of tiles and another.
He taps the tiles at different places until he hears the plaster in the
interstices crumble. He looks at the bit of plaster that is left in his
He squeezes it in his fingertips; it is soft, newly laid.
Then he bends over, places his ear to the wall, and listens.
Suddenly he smiles.
5 ALI’S HIDING PLACE. INSIDE.
There isn’t enough air in the hiding place. The four are forced to
breathe deeply. And in that small space their laborious breaths
resound like splashes.
Ali la Pointe has his eyes fixed upon the square patch of wall that
seals the hiding place. His eyes are large, black, slanted, his eyelids
heavy, somewhat lowered, so that the black of the irises appears even
blacker in the shadows, deeper and more sullen.
Petit Omar is with him, a boy of twelve, and Mahmoud who is eighteen.
There is also Hassiba, a Kabyle girl, blond, blue-eyed, and fair
The hiding place is only five feet high, and hardly holds them. They
are sitting or stretched out on the ground, close to one another.
The entrance to the hiding place is blocked by the small patch of wall
which matches exactly the rest. It is held firm by a bar through an
iron ring attached at the center. On the other side of the cell, above
them, there is a hole for air.
They are tense and do not move. Their lips are dry, half-open, and
their breasts rise and fall in a difficult attempt to breathe.
Ali la Pointe … the house is surrounded.
You haven’t got a chance. Surrender. Let
the child and the girl come out, then you
and the other one. Leave your weapons
inside. It’s useless to try anything. Our
machine guns are ready to fire — you
wouldn’t have time. Do you understand?
Ali’s face is motionless and hasn’t changed its expression.
Ali, do you hear me? Listen! You are the
last one. The organization is finished.
All your friends are dead or in prison.
Come out. You’ll have a fair trial. Come
SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS, OTHER VOICES, CHEERFUL, INCOHERENT:
Why are they breathing so heavily?
They haven’t got enough air inside …
And again the voice of the captain, clear and somewhat distant:
Make up your mind, Ali? Do you want us to
wall you in, or do you prefer that we
blow you to pieces? … Alright. So much
the worse for you.
Ali’s expression is still firm; his stare is dark and sullen.
6 VIEWS OF THE CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAY. NOVEMBER 1, 1954.
The Casbah: compressed humanity, swarming in the alleyways, on the
steps, in the cafes, in the Arab baths, in the mosques, and in the
markets; a tangle of voices, gestures, faces, veiled women, eyes.
Someone is putting up a handbill, another distributes them.
“National Liberation Front! Algerian
brothers! The time has come to break
loose at long last from the bonds of
misery in which one hundred and thirty
years of colonial oppression has kept us
chained. The moment of struggle is near;
our goal — national independence …”
7 VIEWS OF THE EUROPEAN CITY. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The European city: reinforced concrete, asphalt, steel, lights, shop
windows, buildings, automobiles. A steady rhythm of efficiency, music,
cordiality, an apéritif.
“In order to avoid a fatal and bloody
conflict, we propose an honorable program
of discussion to the French authorities,
on condition that they recognize the right
of our people to self-government …”
And the Algerians who work in the European city, the dockers, waiters,
laborers, street-cleaners, farm-hands, and gardeners.
“Algerians unite! Be ready for action!
The National Liberation Front calls you to
Unemployed, peddlers, beggars, shoeshine boys …
8 STREET CARD GAME. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Two hands are moving; one over the other, they criss-cross with
incredible speed; at the same time, they are shifting three small
pieces of wood which appear to be identical. The hand movements are
marked by a kind of Algerian CHANT.
From time to time, the pieces of wood are overturned for a split second
so that the other sides are visible. Robust hands, thick, unusually
agile for their size. The hands of Ali la Pointe, younger then, twenty-
four years old.
A European quarter of Algiers. Coming and going of people, automobile
traffic. On the sidewalk a small group of European and two Algerian
Other passersby stop to watch. The group crowds around the stand where
Ali la Pointe is playing his game.
The entranced eyes of all present are staring at the pieces of wood.
Ali’s hands seem to move by themselves.
His glance, always a bit sullen, apparently distracted, indifferent,
passes from one face to another, and then to the street, from one side
At fifty yards, a policeman. Two Europeans, a man and a woman, are
speaking to him in an excited manner, and nudging him along pointing to
Look! Yes, that’s him!
Ali is no longer singing. His hands have stopped moving.
A POLICE SIREN IS HEARD.
Ali pushes his way through the crowd.
He breaks into a run.
The policeman also begins to run.
9 STREET. ALI’S FLIGHT. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The street is sloping. Ali flees, pursued by the policeman. He dodges
passersby with agility. He gains ground. But nearby are heard …
and also in front of him.
Another two policemen; they too are running.
There is an intersection. At the corner, a cafe.
Young Europeans leaning against a shop window stop chattering and look.
Ali reaches the corner, crosses the street, passes by the bar.
There is a blond youth, about eighteen, who seems to be a student who
stretches out his foot, and pushes a chair in front of him.
Ali stumbles and falls.
The youth attempts a laugh, and at the same time moves backward.
Ali is lying face downward, but suddenly turns his head toward the
youth and stares at him. Then lifting himself by his arms, he turns to
The police are now twenty yards away.
Ali gets to his feet. For a split second, he hesitates. He hurls
himself against the youth, headfirst.
Using his head, Ali rams into the youth’s face, striking him in the
nose and splurting blood everywhere.
The youth is unable to shout. He opens his mouth in the attempt, but
the only result is a gurgling sound and blood. His friends intervene.
Ali is surrounded. The police arrive. A mass of people jump on Ali,
kicking him and striking him with their fists as long as they please.
Finally the police aid Ali and disperse the crowd.
Ali is now in handcuffs and being led away.
More people have arrived. They are yelling, shouting insults, and
spitting on Ali.
Ali passes in their midst protected by the police. He pays no heed to
the fist blows, the shouts, the spits, but seems neither to see nor
hear, as if he were already resigned to having lost the battle this
time, and were preparing to wait patiently for a better chance.
He is walking with an unfaltering step. His face is emotionless, oval,
swarthy. His hair black and wavy, his forehead low and wide; his eyes
large and slanted with eyelids somewhat lowered, his mouth firm and
Omar Ali, known as “Ali la Pointe” born
in Miliana, March 1, 1930. Education:
Illiterate. Occupation: Manual laborer,
farm hand, boxer, presently unemployed.
Former convictions: 1942 — Oran Juvenile
Court, one year of reformatory school for
acts of vandalism. 1944 — Two years of
reformatory school for theft. 1949 —
Court of Algiers, eight months for
compulsory prostitution and resisting
arrest. Habitual offender.
10 PARIS 1955. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The air is clear and springlike. A 4CV Citroen delivery van is parked
in front of the Minister of the Interior warehouses. The rear door is
open, the motor is running, a policeman is at the wheel. Two workers in
overalls exit from the warehouses.
Each one is carrying a box, and places it inside the van. The boxes are
made of seasoned wood, both of them rectangular. They are each about
eight inches long; one and two yards high respectively. The two workers
sit down inside the van, toward the rear. They are facing toward the
exterior. Their feet are dangling and almost touch the ground.
The jolting movement of the van in motion causes them to laugh.
STREETS OF PARIS. Spring. Girls with lightweight clinging dresses. The
two workers call them, whistle, gesture, and then move off in the
ORLY AIRPORT. The van stops in front of a warehouse. The two workers
jump to the ground, place the boxes on their shoulders, and enter the
The boxes are moving on a mobile ramp. There is a large label on each
one which says: REPUBLIC OF FRANCE. MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.
DESTINATION: BARBEROUSSE PRISON. ALGIERS.
11 ALGIERS. BARBEROUSSE PRISON. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
Barberousse prison is situated on the outskirts of the Upper Casbah. It
is an ancient fortress with thick, high surrounding walls, which appear
to vanish in contrast with the central building which dominates them.
The whole structure is covered with limestone like the other houses of
the Casbah. Only the bars on the windows and the big gate are black.
The gate opens. A covered jeep enters the prison courtyard. In the
stronghold of the jeep are the two boxes sent from Paris.
Early morning. The sky is pale blue. In the prison courtyard, the
workers open the two chests and assemble the guillotine. It is possible
to see it from the cell windows that face the courtyard. Faces of
prisoners appear between the bars of some windows.
The workers have disappeared. Only the delicate, makeshift structure of
the guillotine is visible, its slender outline lengthened.
12 PRISON CELL. INSIDE. MORNING.
In one of the cells there are about twenty prisoners. The cell is huge;
there are two very high windows that almost reach the ceiling.
A prisoner is standing on the urine bucket, and looks outside through
the barred window. On the ground there are some mats which serve as
beds. Nothing else.
About ten prisoners are in a group, seated on the ground, and they are
speaking in whispers.
AD LIB DIALOGUE IN LOWERED VOICES.
Two of them are playing with some stones on a chessboard drawn in the
dirt; others are speaking among themselves. One is reading a Mickey
Mouse comic book and laughing to himself. But all of them, in
appearance and behavior, are distinguished from those who make up the
more numerous group. These solitary men are different in some way, they
are not ordinary delinquents.
Ali la Pointe is alone, withdrawn from the others, seated on the
ground, his shoulders propped against the wall, his knees raised. He is
barefoot. On his left ankle, directly above his foot, are tattooed two
words in print: TAIS-TOI. His shirt is unbuttoned and on his chest are
other tattoos in a strange design.
Ali looks at the group and seems to listen to their murmured words
absent-mindedly. His expression is taciturn, reserved, and indifferent.
Ali turns to the prisoner at the window.
PRISONER AT WINDOW
Look at them!
Ali jumps to his feet. Everyone moves toward the two windows.
Ali moves away two yards at a quick pace, then runs toward the window,
and grabbing hold of the bars, heaves himself up to it.
The condemned man turns and looks up toward the windows. He seems to
smile although his face is motionless. In a soft voice, he speaks to
those faces which appear behind the bars:
Tahia el Djez-air! [Long live Algeria!]
The political prisoners take up the phrase and recite it gutturally,
keeping time to the steps of the condemned man.
Tahia el Djez-air!
13 PRISON COURTYARD. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
The condemned man walks toward the guillotine accompanied by guards and
a priest reading the Koran. There is also the executioner wearing a
black hood. The executioner tries to appear indifferent. The priest
recites his prayers. The entire ceremony seems improvised and hasty.
The epilogue is reached quickly.
The condemned man bends. The executioner places his neck in the right
position, adjusts it, turns his head a bit, then pushes his body
forward. He releases the mechanism.
The blade falls, the head rolls. There is no longer a chorus. No one is
Ali’s eyes have remained motionless.
Then from above, as the dismembered body is being carried away in a
basket, as the priest, the guards, and the officer are leaving, as the
workers dismantle the guillotine, from above, from the balconies of the
Casbah, suddenly the “ju-jus” of the women are heard, dense like the
cries of birds, shrill, metallic, angry.
14 SMALL SQUARE. CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAY. JANUARY 1956.
It is raining. The water runs along the gulleys of the narrow alleys.
The white houses have turned spongy gray. The children of the Casbah
are playing and spattering mud. Skinny and half-naked children with
bloated bellies and hair cropped because of sores.
Their mothers call them in vain. They continue to run, play, and wallow
in the mud with a despairing gaiety.
CALLS. VOICES. SHOUTS.
Petit Omar was then ten years old. He is slender, dressed in long pants
and a jacket which is too large for him and torn so that he seems
almost clownish. Calm and absorbed, he passes in the midst of the other
children, but doesn’t notice them or their games.
A small square on a sloping ascent.
In the center, a fountain. On the elevated side of the square, on a
corner, there is a mosque.
SOUNDS OF CHURCH MUSIC.
Standing still at the foot of the steps is an Algerian in white cloak,
and hood down to his eyes. Other people pass by. The Algerian is turned
to one side so as not to be seen. Petit Omar walks toward him and nears
his back. The Algerian turns; it is Ali la Pointe. He tells the boy
with a tone of boredom and curtness:
Men have two faces: one that laughs and
one that cries …
Ali looks at him incredulously and asks:
And they sent you!
The child slips a hand under his sweater to his chest.
Sure, something wrong with that?
Omar takes out a piece of paper folded in four, and hands it to Ali.
Take it. Everything’s written here.
He turns away and begins to run.
Omar stops running and turns to Ali.
Come here … Come.
Omar retraces his footsteps. Ali goes to meet him.
(in a brusque manner)
Can you read?
Ali hands back the paper.
Ali turns and looks around him. He squats on his heels in order to
reach Omar’s height.
It is still drizzling. Omar unfolds the paper and begins to read it.
15 RUE RANDOM. CAFE MEDJEBRI. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
The following day at 5 p.m., rue Random. The street is fairly wide for
a street in the Arab quarter and at this hour it is crowded with
people. There are Algerians in traditional costumes and others in
European clothes. Noisy and tumultuous background …
VOICES, SOUNDS, WORDS — ALL MIXED TOGETHER.
Veiled women with intent glances. Silent women who seem to float
through the crowds, untouchable.
An Arab cafe filled with customers at the tables and bar. Through the
large shop window, a smoky, steamy interior is visible. The cafe is
located in rue Random, number 40.
There is an Arab cafe at rue Random 40.
The owner’s name is Medjebri. He is a
police informer …
Medjebri is standing behind the cash register, smiling, very busy. He
is wearing a traditional costume. He is very clearly visible through
the shop window above the heads of the customers.
In a doorway near the cafe there is a clock hanging from a signboard in
front of a store. It is five o’clock. A French policeman enters the
Every day at 5 p.m., a French policeman
goes to see him. He stops for a few
minutes to get information with the
excuse of drinking a cup of tea. You have
to kill the policeman …
Medjebri moves away from the register, still standing behind the bar,
to where the policeman is seated. He greets him, and hands him a cup of
No. It says the policeman.
The policeman is leaning on the bar. He is tall and husky, and is
wearing a scruffy uniform with a kepi pushed back somewhat. Now his
thick lips are sipping the scalding mint tea.
The large clock and store signboard. Standing in front, there is a
slender girl, veiled, her eyes darting in contrast with the rigid form
of her motionless body. Her arms are raised to form an arch, her hands
supporting the edges of a large basket balanced on her head.
At the corner, right in front of the
large clock, there will be a girl
carrying a basket. When the policeman
comes out, you will follow him together.
At the right moment she will give you a
pistol. You have only to shoot …
quickly and in the back.
Now the policeman has finished drinking his tea. He makes a sign to
pay. Smiling, Medjebri refuses the money, and says good-bye.
Ali approaches the girl. They exchange glances. The girl puts down her
basket which is filled with corn, and rests it by her side.
She moves slowly toward the cafe. Ali walks beside her.
The policeman is coming out of the cafe. He rudely bumps into those who
He makes his way along the sidewalk, and moves further away, balancing
his heavy body at every step.
Ali and the girl are about a yard away from him. They follow him,
pushed along with the many others who are crowded on the sidewalk.
Then the girl plunges her hand into the corn. In a second, she places
the revolver in Ali’s right hand.
He holds it under his cloak. The policeman’s back is a hand’s-bredth
away. But Ali does not shoot.
He moves forward to pass by the policeman.
Alarmed, the girl looks at him, and tries to hold him back. She shakes
her head as if to speak.
Ali smiles at her. His eyes have a hard glint.
He moves a few steps past the policeman. Suddenly Ali turns, lifts his
arm as if to push his way through, and then stretches out his hand with
the revolver aimed.
The policeman stops; his eyes are wide with fear. Instinctively he
lifts his arms and opens his palms.
Terror paralyzes him.
Ali glances about him. Many people are moving away hastily, but others
stand still in a circle and watch fascinated. Ali speaks to all of
them, in a loud voice. His eyes are alight.
Don’t move! Look at him. You’re not
giving any orders now! Your hands are up,
eh! Do you see him, brothers? Our masters
aren’t very special, are they?
A sharp, metallic click. Ali tries a second time, presses the trigger
SEVERAL CLICKS. REVOLVER EMPTY.
Ali rolls the gun barrel; it is empty.
The policeman slowly lowers his hands. His right hand rushes to his
Ali is ready to jump, throws away the gun, and starts to move forward.
He knocks down the policeman, who is overwhelmed, and falls backward.
The crowd moves away quickly. Ali starts to throw himself on the
Frenchman lying on the ground, but stops halfway.
A thought restrains him. He turns and sees the girl who has picked up
the revolver and hidden it again in her basket.
Then she moves away hurriedly.
Ali curses angrily, then, kicks the policeman’s head twice, and runs
after the girl.
He reaches her, grabs her shoulder so roughly that she shouts.
(in a whisper)
Bastard! … Bitch!
The girl struggles free from his grip. At the same time, they hear
behind them …
The girl quickens her step.
16 SIDE ALLEY WITH FRONT DOOR. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. SUNSET.
The girl arrives at a side street, enters it, and breaks into a run.
Ali is again beside her, but unexpectedly the girl enters a front door.
She bends, places the basket on the ground, removes the revolver, and
hides it in her breast beneath her shawl. She gets up again, and leaves
the basket. Ali blocks her way.
Tell me what this joke is all about.
The girl attempts to push past him toward the door.
Let’s move now or they’ll catch us.
Ali grabs her by the arm, shakes her, and shouts uncontrollably:
I want to know who sent me that letter.
What’s his name?
He’s waiting for you!
We’re going there … if you don’t get us
The girl nods toward the street where two policemen are passing by
Ali moves backward into the shadow of the doorway. He regains control
of his nerves, loosens his cloak, and lets it fall on the basket. He is
dressed in European clothes, trousers and pullover.
(pushing her ahead)
Move … go ahead. I’ll follow you.
The girl takes a look outside, then goes out. Ali follows her a few
steps behind. By now it is dusk.
17 TERRACE. KADER’S HOUSE. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
It is a starry night and there are few lights visible in the windows of
the Casbah. In the background, there is the triumphant neon of the
European city, the sea, the ships at anchor, the shining beams of a
lighthouse. Kader turns around gracefully, and goes to sit on the wall
of the terrace.
You could have been a spy. We had to put
you to the test.
Ali looks at him sullenly.
With an unloaded pistol?
Kader is a few years older than Ali, but not so tall. He is slender
with a slight yet sturdy bone structure. The shape of his face is
triangular, aristocratic, his lips thin, his eyes burning with hatred,
but at the same time, cunning. He continues to speak in a calm tone
which has an ironic touch to it.
Let’s suppose you were a spy. In prison,
when the NLF contacts you, you pretend to
support the revolution, and then the
French help you to escape …
Sure. By shooting at me.
Even that could be a trick. You escape,
then show up at the address which the
brothers in prison gave to you, and so
you are able to contact me …
I don’t even know your name yet …
My name is Kader, Ali … Saari Kader …
In other words, in order to join the
organization, you had to undergo a test.
I could have told you to murder the
barman, but he’s an Algerian … and the
police would let you kill him, even
though he is one of theirs. By obeying
such an order, you still could have
been a double agent. And that’s why I
told you to kill the French policeman:
because the French wouldn’t have let
you do it. If you were with the police
you wouldn’t have done it.
Ali has followed Kader’s logic a bit laboriously, and he is fascinated
by it. But not everything is clear yet.
But I haven’t shot him.
You weren’t able to. But what’s important
is that you tried.
What’s important for me is that you let me
risk my life for nothing.
C’mon … you’re exaggerating. The orders
were to shoot him in the back.
I don’t do that kind of thing.
Then don’t complain.
You still haven’t told me why you didn’t
let me kill him.
Because we aren’t ready yet for the
French. Before attacking, we must have
safe places from which to depart and find
refuge. Of course, there is the Casbah.
But even the Casbah isn’t safe yet. There
are too many drunks, pushers, whores,
addicts, spies … people who talk too
much … people who are ready to sell
themselves, undecided people. We must
either convince them or eliminate them.
We must think of ourselves first. We must
clean out the Casbah first. Only then
will we be able to deal with the French.
Do you understand, Ali?
Ali doesn’t answer.
Kader has come down from the wall and looks toward the Casbah. Ali too
looks toward the Casbah, immersed in the night.
And how many are we?
18 AREAS OF CASBAH UNDERWORLD. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY. MARCH 1956.
A warm spring wind, large white clouds. At the western edge of the
Casbah, from the Upper to Lower Casbah, the street of the Algerian
underworld descends to the brothel quarter.
“National Liberation Front, bulletin
number 24. Brothers of the Casbah! The
colonial administration is responsible not
only for our people’s great misery, but
also for the degrading vices of many of
our brothers who have forgotten their own
Shady bars for gamblers and opium smokers, shops filled with tourist
trinkets, merchants, fences, pimps, children with adult faces, ghastly
old women, and young girls, whores standing in the doorways of their
houses. The girls having their faces uncovered have put scarves on
their heads, knotted at the nape.
“Corruption and brutality have always
been the most dangerous weapons of
colonialism. The National Liberation
Front calls all the people to struggle
for their own physical and moral
redemption — indispensable conditions
for the reconquest of independence.
Therefore beginning today, the
clandestine authority of the NLF
prohibits the following activities:
gambling, the sale and usage of all types
of drugs, the sale and usage of alcoholic
beverages, prostitution and its
solicitation. Transgressors will be
punished. Habitual transgressors will be
punished by death.”
19 BAR. EUROPEAN CITY FACING CASBAH. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. SUNSET.
It is dusk. In the European city, the first lights are visible. People
begin to crowd the bars for an apéritif.
An Algerian shoeshine man leaves his workbox at the entrance of the
bar. He goes to the counter. He is tall and thin as a reed. He takes
from his pocket a handful of change; his hands tremble slightly as he
The barman recognizes him, fills a glass of wine, and places it in
front of him. The Algerian pays and takes the glass. It’s probably not
his first; the trembling of his hands increases. The Algerian drinks
the wine in one gulp, then goes to the door. He waits patiently while
some Europeans enter. He goes out, picks up his workbox, and moves
20 RUE MARENGO AND STEPS. OUTSIDE. SUNSET.
The Algerian is standing at the top of some steep, almost vertical
steps that lead from the European quarters to the Casbah.
Now he is in rue Marengo. There is still some daylight. The street is
crowded. The Algerian is unsteady on his legs. He stops and mutters
something to himself. It is obvious that he is trying to hide his
He begins to walk, his hand against the wall for support. He stumbles.
The workbox falls, scattering brushes and cans of shoe polish on the
ground. The Algerian bends down, and begins to pick up his tools. He is
Others have seen him. A peddler points him out to a child of about ten.
It is Petit Omar, who nods yes, then whistles.
Another whistle answers him, then another and another.
There are other children, at every corner of the street.
They arrive in a run and gather together.
Omar points to the drunk who is now moving away, and gives the order to
attack. It is evident that this is not a game for them, but a duty.
There is a chorus of brief shouting, of insults, and whistles.
The drunk sees them approaching. He is terrified.
He tries to quicken his step.
They reach him quickly and surround him. They attack him and then flee,
small yet elusive. They do not laugh even once; their faces are hard
The drunk swings around holding his workbox by its strap.
Some children are hit; some fall.
The drunk avails himself of this chance to escape, and retraces his
steps to the staircase.
He begins to descend toward the European quarters. But the children are
again upon him.
They are shouting more loudly now, and pushing him. He quickens his
step, and staggering jumps the steps two by two.
The children trip him and he falls.
He is crying. He shields himself with his hands.
The workbox has fallen and is rolling down the steps. The children are
now on top of him, like small beasts on a carrion. They smother him,
push him and pull him. They are no longer shouting.
All of them are intent upon their efforts. Only the drunk is shouting
They succeed in moving him, and hurl him down the steps. He rolls
downward, trying in vain to grab something with his hands.
21 BAR CASBAH. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
Outside the sun’s light is blinding. Inside the small bar there is
fresh air and shade.
A young Algerian, with lifeless eyes and an idle expression, is rolling
an opium cigarette. He lights it. Two slaps cause the cigarette to fall
from his lips.
Ali la Pointe is wearing a djellabah, a type of cloak without buttoning
which slips on over the head. There is an opening of about eight inches
at the waist.
Ali has stretched his arm through the opening to slap the opium addict,
who recognizes Ali, smiles, and makes a dazed grimace.
Ali la Pointe …
Wake up! Have you seen Hacene le Bonois?
(shaking his head)
Not today …
Then he gets up laboriously, bends down, and looks for the cigarette
that had fallen from his hand.
He doesn’t reach it. Ali quickly crushes the cigarette with his foot.
He is wearing a pair of sneakers. He moves away and leaves the bar.
22 STREET BAR. CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Ali continues to scour the streets. From time to time, without
lingering, he asks someone:
Seen Hacene le Bonois?
Tell him I’m looking for him …
23 BROTHEL QUARTERS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Entrance to the brothel quarters. The street widens, the alleys branch
off and seem to broaden. There are one or two Europeans, not only
tourists in search of adventure, but also elements of the international
criminal underworld who mingle here with the Algerians.
Almost all the buildings house a brothel or other place of ill-repute.
On some doorways signs are hanging which read:
THIS IS AN HONEST HOUSE.
24 BROTHEL. INSIDE. DAY.
Ali has entered a brothel. It is morning and there are few clients. The
whores are Algerian and European. Some of them are pretty.
The madam is an Algerian, dressed in European clothes. She is about
forty, heavily made up. When she spots Ali, she interrupts her usual
professional chant. She seems curious, yet glad.
Ali la Pointe!
She stops herself, already sorry for having spoken so quickly and
imprudently. Ali doesn’t answer her, but approaches with a steady and
Haven’t seen you around for some time. I
thought you were still in prison.
Ali leans against the counter, never once taking his eyes off her.
Is Hacene le Bonois here?
No. He left early this morning. You know
how it is with the boss …
I want to see him. If he shows up, tell
him that I’m around.
Ali moves away from the counter and turns. He leaves without a word.
The woman tries to understand what has happened, and follows him with a
25 SMALL STREET. HACENE. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Ali, my son … Where have you been
Ali turns suddenly, then pulls back so that his back is against the
wall of the alley.
(in sharp voice)
Then he glances at the others.
The others are three young Algerians, Hacene’s bodyguards. Hacene le
Bonois is tall with short legs out of proportion with his enormous
chest. He is somewhat corpulent. He has a wide face, a cheerful and
self-confident expression. His clothing is a strange combination of
Algerian and European which does not, however, appear ridiculous, but
imposing. At Ali’s remark, his expression changes, becomes amazed and
baffled. But at the same time, his eyes give away the brain’s attempt
to find an explanation and a solution.
You know I never carry weapons …
Ali keeps his arms and hands hidden under his djellabah.
Hacene laughs warmly, and stretches out his hands which are enormous,
thick and rough.
You afraid of these …?
Don’t move, Hacene.
Why are you afraid? We’ve always been
friends. One might even say that I brought
you up … Isn’t it true, Ali?
What’s happened to you?
The NLF has condemned you to death.
Hacene is stunned. He speaks aloud his thoughts in a soft voice.
Ah, so its come to this …
Then he bursts into loud laughter, and seems to turn to the three
guards at his back.
I’m dying of laughter! Ha … ha …
Ali doesn’t speak. He continues to stare at Hacene. Hacene suddenly
stops laughing. His tone of voice changes, becomes brusque and hurried.
How much are they paying you?
They’re not paying me anything. They’ve
already warned you twice; this is the
last warning. Decide.
What … What must I decide?
You’ve got to change occupations, Hacene.
Hacene makes a gesture as if to emphasize what he is going to say.
Okay, you convince me.
Then suddenly, unexpectedly, he lets out a SHRILL SCREAM, like fencers
who before plunging their swords, try to frighten their adversaries.
Simultaneously, he hurls himself forward, head lowered and arms
Ali steps aside, and releases a BLAST OF MACHINE-GUN FIRE.
Hacene falls flat on his face. There is movement. Some passersby
approach. The three boys try to escape.
The barrel of the machine gun is visible through the opening in his
djellabah. Ali’s voice is quivering angrily:
Look at him well! Now nobody can do
whatever he wants in the Casbah. Not even
Hacene … least of all you three pieces
of shit! Go away now … go away and
spread the word … Go on!
26 WEDDING. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Summer. There is a garland of flowers strung across an alley. A front
door is open, and the guests continue to arrive.
27 WEDDING HOUSE. OUTSIDE. DAY.
In the inner courtyard, there are benches and chairs arranged in rows.
In front of all of them, there are two chairs separated from the rest,
one next to the other. In front of them, there is a small table with a
pen and inkstand on top. The people remain standing, about twenty
Algerians, of all ages. They are speaking among themselves in thick
whispers. There is an expectant and ceremonious atmosphere.
Mahmoud was seventeen then. He has soft down on his cheeks, his first
beard. He is thin, his neck long and tense, his glance nervous. He
appears to be the protagonist of what is about to take place. His hair
is combed with care and covered with much hair cream. He is wearing a
clean and newly bought white costume.
Many of the others come to speak with him; the younger ones are joking
and trying to provoke him.
AD LIB REMARKS.
Mahmoud reacts comically with a grim frown with which he tries in vain
to hide his shyness. At the same time, he glances secretly, anxiously,
up to the empty balcony on the first floor. Much gay and lively
chattering can be heard from an open door above.
28 WEDDING ROOM. INSIDE. DAY.
In the room, a group of girls are busy preparing trays with cups of
coffee. They are little more than children, twelve or thirteen years
old, with soft complexions, white teeth, and shining eyes. They seem
children who are playing, but beneath that veneer of gaiety, some
anxiety is noticeable, emotions in suspense. The faltering voice of an
old woman calls from the adjoining room.
A girl leaves the group, lifts the dividing curtain, and nearing the
bed where the old woman is lying, she kneels beside her. The old woman
lifts her hand and places it on the girl’s hair, caressing her
tenderly. She speaks in a wavering voice, and her small yet kind eyes
fill with tears.
OLD WOMAN’S SPEECH IN ARABIC.
The girl nods yes, then she gets up and goes to rejoin her companions.
Passing before a mirror, she stops a minute to tidy her hair.
29 WEDDING HOUSE. OUTSIDE. DAY.
They appear on the balcony, then descend to the courtyard. The nervous
glance of Mahmoud scans their faces, then rests upon that girl who,
with lowered eyelids, also glances quickly at him. Meanwhile the trays
are being passed among the guests.
Now the people turn to face the front door. A young man has entered
carrying a briefcase under his arm. Behind him are two boys who seem to
be his bodyguards, and are the only ones dressed in European clothes.
Both of them have their right hands under their jackets, which are old
and torn. They seem to be armed. They close the door, and remain
standing on either side of it.
The man with the briefcase walks toward the table. All present look at
him respectfully. He smiles, responds to their greetings, shakes hands
with all. But he refuses coffee and seems to be in a hurry.
He sits down, places his briefcase on the table, opens it, and takes
out a large notebook. From the open briefcase, the metallic butt of a
sub-machine gun appears.
On the cover of the notebook is written: NLF — ALGERIAN AUTONOMOUS
ZONE. CIVIL RECORDS.
He turns the pages of the notebook until he reaches the last written
page. Then he glances up toward the people who, in the meantime, have
taken their seats. He smiles, says a few words, then calls two names.
Mahmoud walks forward stiffly, erect, his eyes staring straight ahead
The girl also walks forward, with a perplexed expression. They sit down
next to each other, but without looking at each other. The ceremony
consists of a few words. Finally the two youths look at each other.
Mahmoud tries to smile, but he cannot.
The girl’s expression softens somewhat. Her glance is tender; she
lowers her face quickly. Meanwhile the others recite the verses of the
Koran in low voices.
30 RUE D’ISLY. OUTSIDE. DAY. JUNE 20, 1956. 8:05 A.M.
There is a French guard, no more than thirty years old. He has a blond
mustache, his beard recently shaved. There are few people in the
street. The guard walks slowly, glancing in the shop windows from time
to time to admire his reflection. He stops, adjusts his cap, and
An Algerian appears beside him; he is also young. The guard pretends to
be interested in the photographic equipment which is on display, then
The Algerian’s arm springs forward and returns quickly to its place. He
plunges the knife into the guard’s neck.
The guard opens his mouth wide to shout, but he cannot. The blood
gurgles in his gashed throat. None of the few passersby has seen what
happened. The guard falls flat on his face. Someone sees him and
The Algerian hurls himself on top of the soldier, opens his holster,
takes his pistol, then gets up pulling the gun with him. The gun is
fastened by a leather cord. The cord gets tangled in the gashed neck of
The Algerian pulls in vain. He panics. He looks about him with
People approach hurriedly. They are shouting. The Algerian pulls the
cord a second time, desperately.
He regains his control, picks up the knife which is lying on the
ground, and cuts the leather cord, thus freeing the pistol. The others
have almost reached him and he is surrounded, but he manages to dodge
them, and escapes.
31 BOULEVARD BRU. OUTSIDE. DAY. 8:40 A.M.
A group of zouaves on patrol, three soldiers and an officer. The street
is sloping; on the right there is a high fence covered with advertising
signs and cinematographic posters, all of them torn and full of holes;
the emptiness on the other side is visible through the holes.
The soldiers are chatting among themselves and looking at the posters.
A soldier stops because he sees something moving on the other side of
He points to it and shouts, but not in time.
MACHINE-GUN FIRE INTERRUPTED BY SINGLE SHOTS.
The soldier falls, the others remain motionless, unbelieving. They
begin to run and scatter and look for cover.
An Algerian appears on top of the fence. He moves like a cat, and jumps
from the other side.
His invisible companions continue to shoot. He is unarmed, and runs to
the dead soldier. He grabs the machine gun and retraces his steps. The
action takes place in a second.
By now the soldiers too are shooting, but it is too late.
32 POLICE STATION. CHEMIN AIN-ZEBOUDJA. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY. 9:10 A.M.
A police station in the Casbah, a small prefabricated one-story
At the main door there is a police guard. A group of five Algerians is
approaching. They are talking among themselves, and gesticulating.
The policeman enjoys watching them, then asks what it’s about. All five
of them answer him at once, trying to outdo one another.
The policeman has to shout to make them keep quiet. Then, assuming a
very humble behavior, they enter silently. The oldest among them speaks
in a mournful voice. He seems to be crying and asks the sergeant
The policeman calls a colleague, and tells him to accompany the
Algerians. Four of them go with the policeman, while another remains in
the waiting room, saying that it is better because he is afraid of
losing his control.
Then he begins to explain the reasons for the quarrel: it concerns a
will. The old man is his grandfather, but he has recently remarried.
Then from inside is heard …
The policeman reacts quickly and tries to draw his gun. But the
Algerian is faster and fires point-blank.
The four reappear. One of them is wounded. All of them are armed with
revolvers, and carry at their sides a machine gun and two sub-machine
guns that they have taken from the armory. Other cries and shots are
heard behind them.
All five of them run out in haste.
33 RUE MARENGO. OUTSIDE. DAY. 9:45 A.M.
Another police station. Two policemen are chatting in front of the
A black Renault is passing by at a walking speed, then slows down
almost to the point of halting completely.
The right door opens and there is a burst of machine-gun fire. One of
the policemen has been, hit, and grabs the other so as not to fall.
Another burst of …
The two policemen fall down together. The car motor is accelerated, the
tires screech and the Renault shoots forward.
A military jeep arrives from the opposite direction, crashes into the
car and blocks its escape.
An Algerian flees and is pursued. Another descends from the auto with
his hands raised.
The soldiers shoot and kill him.
34 AVENUE DU 8 NOVEMBRE. OUTSIDE. DAY. 1:10 P.M.
A large garage with workshop and filling station. In front are some
automobiles and a military truck.
A scooter with two Algerian boys passes by, rumbling noisily along the
road. Then at full speed, it makes a sharp turn, retraces its steps and
turns again. The boys seem to be showing off for fun.
Meanwhile, the employees of the garage are leaving their work since it
is lunchtime. The attendant at the gasoline pumps is left alone.
The scooter stops in front of the high-test gasoline pump. The attendant
is a European, an elderly man, who approaches them holding in one hand
some bread he has just unwrapped. He detaches the pump handle of high-
test, and asks how many gallons.
One of the Algerians points a revolver at the attendant, and tells him
to pour out the gasoline on the ground all around. The other,
meanwhile, goes to the other two gasoline pumps, detaches the handles,
and fastens them in an open position in order to empty them of
gasoline. He uses two pieces of iron that he has brought with him to
clamp the handles open. He stretches the pump hoses as far as they can
go toward the garage and the parked cars.
The gasoline flows all over the large square. The two youths are again
on the scooter; they tell the European to move away. They have soaked a
rag in gasoline and they light it.
The gasoline continues to flow from the two open pumps. The European is
by now far away, the scooter is already moving away, and at the same
time, the boys hurl the lit rag into the square. It immediately bursts
35 COMMISSIONER’s OFFICE. INSIDE. NIGHT.
The night of the same day, in an office of the police commissioner’s
headquarters. On the desk, photos of the day’s terroristic attempts are
piled in a heap. An employee is in front of his typewriter.
The Assistant Commissioner is about forty years old, very robust. His
face is somewhat wide, ordinary, and with heavy features. He leafs
through the photos while speaking on the telephone. It is a very warm
night, and the window of the office is open. From outside is heard
the SOUND OF TRAFFIC.
Yes, sir, but they haven’t received a
search-warrant yet. Rue d’Isly? We
followed them for a while, but then we
lost track … Yes, sir, but it is in
another precinct. No, it wasn’t in
theirs … There are some suspects for
rue Marengo … No … the judge hasn’t
given permission yet. He is requesting a
formal investigation first. Yes, sir,
yes … Yes, sir, yes — But we haven’t
enough men. Of course, I understand …
If it were possible, sir, you should …
but the Commissioner can’t … in … But
couldn’t you … Alright, sir … We’ll
let them cut our throats then!
He slams the receiver angrily and begins to dictate his report. His
voice is harsh, filled with rancor.
Time: 3 P.M. Attempt at homicide against a
Patrol of the 3rd B.P.C. Place: Luciani
street at El Biar. Weapon: Revolver 7.75.
Victim: A soldier wounded in the right leg
and groin. Hospitalized. Assailants:
Unknown. … Time: 3:35 P.M. Homicide.
Place: Chopin Street, opposite number 20.
Weapon: P.M. 38. Victim: Private
second-class Dare Jackie, born March 12,
1931. Deceased. Assailant: A moslem.
Height: five feet and seven/eights
inches. Light colored clothing. Probably
escaped in Simca. License plates unknown.
Time: Four minutes past 4 P.M. Homicide
and attempt at homicide against patrol of
border guards. Place: Intersection between
Consular Street and General Laquiere …
Wait a minute …
The officer stops speaking, takes a glass from his desk, and goes near
the window. On the ledge, there is a bottle of beer, left there
evidently to keep it a bit cool. He takes it, fills his glass and
Then he speaks in a lowered voice, while looking outside, without even
giving any directions to the employee who waits with his hands poised
about the keyboard of his typewriter.
I want to see the newspapers tomorrow. If
they’re still talking about pacification
of our Moslem brothers!
He returns to his desk.
Where were we?
Intersection, between Consular Street and
General Laquiere Avenue …
36 VARIED FLASHES. POLICE STATIONS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
In front of police stations: Ain-Zeboudja … rue Marengo … and all
the others … in the Casbah … in the European quarters … sandbag
entrenchments are being prepared, barbed wire is being stretched,
metallic lookout turrets are being set up. It is very hot. Workers and
policemen work in silence. There is an oppressive atmosphere.
“Ordinance of the Prefecture of Algiers:
All police stations in Algiers, without
exception and until further notice, are
required to prepare and maintain external
protection devices. The shifting of guards
outside must continue uninterrupted
twenty-four hours a day. Sentinels must
be equipped with automatic weapons …”
37 EUROPEAN AND CASBAH PHARMACIES. MUSTAPHA HOSPITAL. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
View of pharmacies in the European quarters and in the Casbah.
The shelves, medicines; people who are buying. The Mustapha hospital,
reserved for Algerians. The wards: hospitalized Algerians.
“The Governor-General of Algiers decrees:
Article No. 1 — The sale of medicinal
and pharmaceutical products, effective
for the cures of gunshot wounds, can be
made only to those who present written
authorization from the Commissioner of
Article No. 2 — Directors of all
hospitals and clinics must produce to the
police authorities an immediate listing
of all patients admitted to their
institutions for the care and treatment
of gunshot wounds.”
38 CASBAH ROAD BLOCKS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The Casbah is being closed off. Every point of entrance, every alley,
every street that joins the Casbah and the European quarters has been
blocked off with wooden horses and with barbed wire nine feet high.
There are also workers, policemen, and soldiers who are working at the
Beyond them, on the other side of the barbed wire, the Algerians seem
to be encaged.
“The Prefecture of Algiers states: In
the course of these last few days, dozens
of assaults have been committed in this
city. We have reason to believe that the
assailants originate in the Casbah, and
that they have always found a speedy and
easy refuge in the alleys of the Arab
quarters. As a result, and in order to
alleviate without delay the insecurity
that now reigns in the city, the
Prefecture of Algiers has decided that
entrance to the Casbah can only he
permitted at those points in the blockade
under military control, where citizens in
transit must exhibit their documents at
request, and submit to eventual searches.”
The Casbah is imprisoned, like a huge concentration camp. Only five
streets have been left open, the widest streets. There are five exits
where the wooden horses serve to restrict passage, and where some
wooden posts for the guards are being built.
Every exit is marked by a sign with large lettering.
39 BLOCKADE MARENGO. OUTSIDE. DAY. AUGUST 10, 1956.
At each blockade, there are two ramps, an entrance and an exit to the
Casbah. The Algerians and some Europeans crowd around in both
directions. The soldiers are wearing fatigues with helmets and machine
guns. The Europeans are not requested to show identity papers.
The Algerians are often frisked, and accept this fact silently,
patiently, without any sign of intolerance. But if the soldiers attempt
to search a woman, then, it is different.
A woman begins to shout, while waving her arms wildly, and pushes away
the soldier who had tried to search her. A stream of incoherent words.
Other Algerians intervene; they push forward threateningly. The soldier
is young; he is timid and frightened. He looks over his back for help.
A police officer approaches. He has a different tone, and a very self-
assured manner. He shouts at the Algerians to calm down.
Are you mad, touching one of their women?
Go on, go on, alright … Go ahead, keep
The woman passes the blockade, but still continues her protest with a
shrill and unbearable voice.
40 RUE PHILIPPE. OUTSIDE. DAY. 8:35 A.M.
An Algerian woman walks along the sidewalk. She is elderly, fat, and is
wearing a traditional costume with her face veiled. She walks slowly
toward a bar, which has its tables outside, and already some customers.
Near the bar, leaning against a wall, there is an Algerian who now
begins to move and goes to meet the old woman. They greet one another
with much warmth, like a mother and son who haven’t seen each other for
a long time.
They embrace, and the man searches at her breast among the folds of her
veil. He finds a revolver which is hung by a cord, and grabs it. They
are at ten or twelve feet distance from the bar. At a table, there is a
French soldier having coffee with cream, croissant, and an open
The Algerian continues to embrace the old woman, and aims from above
her shoulders. Only one shot; the newspaper rips, the soldier tries to
get up again, his face full of blood. Then he collapses on the table.
The Algerian has hidden the revolver in the woman’s veil. The two
separate from their embrace. They seem terrified and surprised, and
move away from each other in different directions while the people are
rushing about and SHOUTING.
41 DE LA LYRE MARKET. OUTSIDE. DAY. 9:10 A.M.
The cries of the peddlers are loud and incoherent. An Algerian is
squatting on his heels in front of his wares scattered on the ground:
clusters of aromatic herbs, jars of spices. A youth is in front of him,
and from time to time, he looks around him. He seems to be waiting.
Now he bends down and begins to rummage through the herbs. He selects a
bunch of mint, weighs it in his hand, and argues the price with the
A policeman in the market passes nearby and watches. The youth waits a
second, then turns toward the back of the policeman, and stretches out
He has in his hand the bunch of mint; a revolver is hidden among the
greens. He shoots twice.
The French policeman falls down. The youth drops the mint with the
revolver among the other herbs, and moves away in the midst of the
42 RUE DE BAR-EL-QUED. OUTSIDE. DAY. 10:15 A.M.
In front of the police station there are sandbags and a police guard at
duty with helmet and machine gun. The policeman jumps to attention and
salutes. An officer has come out of the station and returns his salute.
He moves away and walks along the sidewalk.
There are few people. An Algerian seems to appear from nowhere, and
walks behind him. He is very young, is wearing a short-sleeved shirt
and blue jeans.
The officer turns at the first corner. Further on, there is a row of
cars and a metallic sign which warns that the parking space is reserved
for police vehicles only.
The officer hears the steps of the boy behind him, and summons him in a
What are you doing here? Where are you
The boy shrugs his thin, shoulders and lowers his head.
(in servile tone)
I’m going for a swim; my friends are
waiting for me.
The officer curses under his breath and proceeds. He stops in front of
a Dyna-Panhard, parked not too far away.
The boy moves on a few yards past the automobile until he reaches a
metallic wastebasket which is fastened to the pole of a street lamp. He
stops there, then glances around.
The officer is not far behind him; he has taken his car keys from his
pocket, and is about to open the car door. The boy plunges his hand
into the basket, rummages among the torn papers, then suddenly turns,
points a revolver at the officer’s back, and shoots.
The man tries to clutch something, but slips and falls down. The boy
shoots again at the man on the ground, then plunges his hand again into
the wastebasket, drops the revolver, and glances around him. He breaks
into a run.
The policemen come out of the police station hurriedly.
WHISTLES, ORDERS, EXCITED CRIES.
They turn the corner. Some rush to the man lying on the ground. Others
jump into a jeep. Four of them jump on motorcycles that are lined up in
the rack. They move off in two directions.
At the same time, wails of police sirens moving nearer are heard in the
distance. The street is deserted. There is no trace of the boy.
People are seen at their windows. The officer is lifted by his arms.
An ambulance arrives and stops, its siren at full blast, its doors wide
open. The officer is placed inside.
The motorcycles are racing through the sidestreets. The jeep converges
on them, then reverses its direction, moving while balanced on two
Passersby stop to watch, all of them Europeans. The siren’s wail is at
a high pitch.
43 ADJACENT STREETS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
A deserted street, recently covered with wet asphalt.
A Moslem road worker is sitting on the ground next to a steamroller.
He is eating his lunch. The combined sounds of the siren’s wail and the
rumbling of the motorcycles are heard approaching.
Two motorcyclists appear in the street, passing by the road worker.
One of them stops and turns around.
The road worker moves backward to the street corner. He breaks into a
run. His eyes are burning with fear, his face is anxious, undecided.
From the windows, the people point to him, and shout after him.
A jeep appears in the street in front of him.
The motorcyclist approaches from the opposite direction.
The Algerian stops running; he doesn’t know what to do.
From the windows, continuous SHOUTING.
The Algerian leans against the wall, watches the scene, and begins to
cry. The policemen jump down from the jeep and leap at him. The
Algerian isn’t able to speak, but only shakes his head.
44 POLICE STATION. INSIDE. DAY.
A room inside the police station. The Algerian’s face is beaten from
right and left by a series of slaps.
The room is filled with policemen. All of them are practically on top
of the Algerian; all of them are shouting. In the confusion can be
Do you know he’s dead, you bastard? Do you
know you killed him?
They try to reach him, pushing against one another in order to get
closer and hit him. The Algerian is crying and speaks in broken-off
phrases, half Arabic and half French. His continual efforts to repeat
certain words are heard:
No, no, no, no, … me no … Viva
An officer arrives making his way.
Get out, go on, outside … Get out of
the way! Go away …
They make way for him; he reaches the Algerian who tries to smile at
him, continually shaking his head:
Sir … sir … sir …
What’s your name?
The Algerian’s mouth is dry; he tries to swallow.
Sir … sir … sir …
What’s your name?
trying to swallow)
Lardjane Boualem, sir …
45 COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE. INSIDE. NIGHT.
In the Commissioner’s office, the Assistant Commissioner dictates:
Guilty: Lardjane Boualem, manual worker,
married with three children. Resident in
rue de Thèbes, number eight … So? How
The employee removes the copies from the typewriter and begins to put
them in order.
Seven assaults, three dead.
Then he moves to the desk, and hands over the various copies for
Here, one for the Commissioner … the
press offices … the archives … and
one for you, sir.
The Assistant Commissioner signs.
Good, thank you, Corbiere… . See you
Good evening, sir.
The employee salutes, then moves toward the door. He is about to go out
when the Assistant Commissioner stops him.
Tell me … Where is this rue de Thèbes?
Rue de Thèbes? In the Upper Casbah, I
All right. See you tomorrow, Corbiere.
Good evening, sir.
The employee leaves and closes the door. The Assistant Commissioner
crosses the room to the large map of Algiers which covers the entire
wall. He moves his finger along the Casbah zone; as he moves it, he
follows it with his glance in that tangle of streets.
Rue de Thèbes … de Thèbes …
He has found it. He observes it for a minute, then moves his finger
along the road leading to the European quarters. He finds the right
route, then concentrates in order to memorize it.
He returns to the desk, lifts the receiver, and dials a number.
(on the phone)
Hello, Engineer Henry Amaud, please …
He’s already left? Alright, yes, yes,
alright … I have the number.
He clicks the receiver, then dials another number. At the other end of
the line, a feminine voice is heard. The Assistant Commissioner
abandons his usual peremptory tone.
Hello, Bernadette…Yes, right away. I’m
going to change my clothes first, and I’ll
be right there. My wife is already there,
right? No, it’s not important. But call
Henry for me. Just for a minute …
Alright … thanks …
He places the receiver on the desk, then puts on his jacket which is on
the back of his chair. He straightens his tie. Now from the receiver a
muffled voice is heard; the Assistant Commissioner picks up the
Hello, Henry? … Everything’s okay.
Good. What are we going to tell our
wives? The club? Good idea, yes. I’ll be
there right away. Just give me time to
change my clothes … Ah, I’ve found the
address. No, it’s better to talk in
person. Yes, it’s the right place …
He puts down the receiver, then goes to the coat-hanger and takes his
beret. He goes out after glancing again at the photos of the day’s
46 HENRY ARNAUD’S HOME. INSIDE. NIGHT.
Two small children are kneeling in front of their beds.
Notre Père, dans le ciel …
Two children, five or six years old, blond, charming, but not affected.
They seem to be twins, and are wearing identical pajamas.
At the same time, a servant is preparing their beds for the night. She
is about fifty years old, her apron clean and ironed; she has gray
hair, her face that of a good woman. She is Algerian. When the
children falter in their prayers, she helps them. When they have
finished she says with an Algerian accent:
Now, let’s go to say good night.
In the dining room, there is a large open window. The beach, the sea,
and the sound of the surf are outside, not too distant. It is a starry
night. At a table, there are four men and four women, all of them well
dressed and tanned. It is the home of Henry and Bernadette Arnaud. The
Assistant Commissioner is in plain clothes. He and his wife seem ill at
ease, somewhat out of place.
The maid and children have entered the room.
Come here, children. Say hello …
Good evening …
The others smile. The servant accompanies the children to their
Good night, daddy. Good night, mommy.
Good night, dear.
They kiss. At the same time the women make the usual delighted
exclamations. One of the men attracts the Assistant Commissioner’s
attention, points to his watch, and makes a sign.
The Assistant Commissioner nods his head affirmatively.
47 ALGERIAN STREETS. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
A DS Citroen is crossing the city at high speed.
The four men are inside. Arnaud is at the wheel. The Assistant
Commissioner is sitting in the back seat.
48 CASBAH ENTRANCE. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
The automobile arrives at Place du Gouvernement, takes a turn around
the square, then turns toward the blockade, and slows down.
One of the soldiers moves to the center of the ramp, and raises the
phosphorescent flag. The car lowers its headlights and stops.
The soldier goes to the driver’s window. In his right hand, he is
holding a machine gun which hangs from his shoulders. He greets them.
He bends to window level:
Good evening …
Arnaud responds in an innocent, cheerful tone:
Good evening … Can we pass?
It’s too late. No one is allowed to enter
the Casbah at this hour. It’s impossible.
But it’s not even midnight yet!
It’s ten minutes past midnight. Curfew
begins at midnight.
Please, we just want to take a short ride.
A friend of mine has never seen the
I’m sorry. Tomorrow. Tonight is out of
The Assistant Commissioner intervenes with the self-assured and
somewhat arrogant tone common to all policemen. He stretches his arm
toward the window and hands the soldier a card.
It’s alright, they’re with me.
The soldier examines the card by the glare of the headlights, hands it
back, and bringing his hand to his visor, he salutes.
Okay, sir. Go ahead.
The Assistant Commissioner salutes with his hand.
Let’s go, Henry.
(he changes gears)
Thank you. Good evening.
The soldier steps aside, and salutes again.
The automobile begins to move, steadily increasing its speed.
49 CASBAH STREET. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
The streets of the Casbah are deserted, almost completely blackened.
Some cats are frightened by the headlights and run close to the walls.
Inside the car the four men are silent. They keep their eyes fixed
straight ahead of them, their faces concentrating, taut.
Yes, it’s the first intersection … or
50 RUE DE THÈBES. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
The automobile slows down at the first intersection. Arnaud leans out
the window and looks. There is an enamel nameplate — RUE DE THÈBES.
Right or left?
Try going to the right.
The car turns right, moving slowly.
On one side of the street, the even numbers are getting higher: 26 …
28 … 30 …
What number is it?
The man next to the Assistant Commissioner says:
Let’s park here. It doesn’t matter.
(in sharp tone)
It does matter. Go back, Henry. Let’s go
to number eight.
Arnaud puts the gears in reverse; the car moves back quickly and passes
the intersection: 16 … 14 … 12 … 10 … 8… it stops.
Arnaud puts it in neutral. With the motor still running, he presses the
cigarette lighter on the dashboard.
The Assistant Commissioner takes a large package that he is holding
under his legs on the car floor. It is wrapped in pieces of newspaper.
He lifts it forward. The man who is next to Arnaud takes it, leans it
against the back of his seat, touches it until he finds the right spot,
unwraps it from that part, and straightens a small plastic tube which
appears at the opening. It is a fuse.
How long do you want the timing device?
Five minutes. Give me a match …
Arnaud takes the cigarette lighter from the dashboard.
The other man has opened the car door. He takes the lighter and touches
it to the fuse which ignites immediately. The door of number eight is
very near, almost directly opposite the car door.
The man places the package in a shady area and returns to the car in a
run. Arnaud has already changed gears, releases the clutch, and the
automobile shoots forward.
51 RUE DE THÈBES. EXPLOSION. OUTSIDE. NIGHT. AUGUST 11, 1956. 12:20 A.M.
The explosion is very violent. The fronts of buildings number eight,
ten, and twelve explode and collapse.
The echo of the explosion has ended. There is a long pause, only some
isolated noises resound. They are stressed, recognizable: a burning
beam, the thud of falling debris, broken glass …
Then suddenly and almost simultaneously with the other sounds, after
the shock, the human voices, the shouts and weeping are heard.
VOICES, SHOUTS, WEEPING.
52 RUE DE THÈBES. OUTSIDE. DAWN.
The dawn’s light is clear and white. It dispels every shadow and
designs precisely every outline. Here and there, in the middle of the
sky, there are numerous clouds of dust, strangely motionless. In the
light, the human figures seem black. Seen from a distance, they seem to
be ants upon heaps of debris. There are women, motionless, weeping
softly, their voices similar to prayer. From time to time, there is a
sudden scream, a despairing sob, someone running.
Another corpse is pulled out from the rubble, bodies mutilated or still
intact — they are all dead.
The people continue to rummage through the debris and to wait around
53 CASBAH STREETS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
But there is no pity in the other streets and alleys of the Casbah, or
at the top of the steps. There is anger and hatred. The people are
running and shouting.
They are shouting from their windows and balconies:
They smother every other sound. The excitement increases. They run
where there is more shouting, more people. They don’t know what to do
yet, but want to be together. Until there is a voice stronger and
clearer than the others which gives them a goal and direction.
Ali la Pointe points below beyond the slopes of the alleys and
stairways. There below are the European quarters which widen near the
The crowd is shouting, pushing, rushing forward with him, like a raging
stream, tumultuous and unrestrainable. Ali is together with his men,
five boys, one of them older than twenty. All of them are armed. The
crowd forces them to quicken their step to a run.
Petit Omar is furthest in the rear. He is wearing a pair of short
pants, his chest bare; he is barefoot. He calls Ali with all his might,
but in vain.
He tries to join Ali, to make his way through the legs of the others;
he runs, clinging to the others, pushes, passes near the walls; then,
turning into a side-street, he rushes into an alleyway, and finally
arrives in front. He runs to Ali, almost out of breath.
Kader says to stop them! He says we’ve
got to stop them!
Ali slows down as much as he can with the crowd pushing him from
With the others. They are trying to stop
Their voices can hardly be heard or understood amid the loud noises.
But he says that if we go on like this,
we’re playing their game, and they’ll
murder everyone … Stop, Ali!
Ali continues to run. His face is sullen, frowning, as always when he
must choose between instinct and reason. Omar calls him again. His
voice is hysterical, repeating again to stop. He is hanging on one of
Ali’s arms. Ali jerks himself free violently; he strikes the child.
Omar sways and falls against the wall.
With this movement, Ali seems to release his anger at not being able to
carry out his actions.
He slows down, speaks to his men, a few words in Arabic, his voice cold
Ali extends his arm and the others imitate him. Each man grabs another
by the arm, forming a chain. They check the flow behind them and hold
back the crowd that is pressing forward.
54 KADER’S HOUSE. INSIDE. DAY. SEPTEMBER 30, 1956.
Djamila, the girl who in January, in rue Random, gave the revolver to
Ali la Pointe, is now standing in front of a large mirror. She removes
the veil from her face. Her glance is hard and intense; her face is
expressionless. The mirror reflects a large part of the room: it is a
bedroom. There are three other girls.
There is Zohra, who is about the same age as Djamila. She undresses,
removing her traditional costume, and is wearing a slip …
There is Hassiba who is pouring a bottle of peroxide into a basin. She
dips her long black hair into the water to dye it blond.
Every action is performed precisely and carefully. They are like three
actresses preparing for the stage. But there is no gaiety; no one is
speaking. Only silence emphasizes the detailed rhythm of their
Djamila’s lightweight European dress of printed silk …
Zohra’s blouse and short skirt to her knees … make-up, lipstick,
high-heeled shoes, silk stockings …
Hassiba has wrapped her hair in a towel to dry it … a pair of blue
jeans, a striped clinging tee-shirt …
Her blond hair is now dry. She ties it behind in a ponytail. Hassiba
has a young, slim figure. She seems to be a young European girl who is
preparing to go to the beach.
Continual silence. Djamila and Zohra have finished their preparations
and sit down to wait. Hassiba is still barefoot. She is putting on her
sandals, when someone knocks at the door.
Djamila gets up and goes to open it.
It is Kader.
A quick attentive glance; Djamila … Zohra … Hassiba …
Hassiba responds to his look with a gay and somewhat coquettish
expression; she says, stressing her French:
Ça va, monsieur?
Kader smiles for a second, without any gaiety, but to please her. Then
he speaks briefly and harshly in Arabic. And turning one at a time to
each of the three, he gives them three addresses.
Number three rue de Chêne.
Number fourteen rue Monseigneur Leynaud.
Number twenty-one rue de l’Hydre.
Each one of the girls repeats, in turn, the address which he has given
her. Each one of the three responds emotionally. The atmosphere is
tense. Kader bids them farewell according to the Algerian custom, first
bringing his right hand over his heart. Then he embraces them.
They look at him for a moment; they are embarrassed. Kader tries to
ease their discomfort, smiles, and answers Hassiba’s previous remark.
Ça va … Et bonnes chances!
55 RUE DE L’HYDRE. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY. 5:45 P.M.
At number twenty-one rue de l’Hydre, there is a bread store. Hassiba
has again covered her face with a veil, and is also wearing a white
cloak which covers her whole body.
She enters the store. There are other women who are buying bread.
Hassiba waits for them to leave, then says in Arabic to the shopkeeper:
I’ve come to take the package …
The shopkeeper empties half a basket of bread; at the bottom, there is
a beach bag with a shoulder-strap, and he gives it to Hassiba.
Hassiba hides it under her cloak, bends her head in a sign of farewell,
56 RUE MONS. LEYNAUD. INSIDE. DAY. 5:45 P.M.
At number fourteen rue Monseigneur Leynaud, there is a tailor shop and
clothing store. Zohra is also wearing the veil and white cloak. She
I’ve come to take the package …
The tailor accompanies her to the back of the shop, where there is a
workroom and young girls who are sewing. He rummages in a closet, takes
out an Air France utility bag and gives it to Zohra who hides it under
her cloak, greets him, and leaves.
57 RUE DU CHÊNE. INSIDE. DAY.
Inside number three rue du Chêne, an Algerian craftsman is working in
filigree. Djamila takes a small leather cosmetic case.
Djamila hides it, greets the man, and leaves.
58 ALLEY AND BLOCKADE. RUE MARENGO. INSIDE/OUTSIDE. DAY. 6:05 P.M.
At an intersection of rue Marengo, an alley, Hassiba enters a large
door, and shuts it. In a second, she has removed her veil and cloak.
Her face is made up; she is wearing pants and a jersey top. She places
the strap of her bag on her shoulder.
Inside the bag, a towel and bathing suit are visible.
Hassiba goes out the door, proceeds down the alley until she reaches
rue Marengo. She approaches the blockade.
It is Saturday evening; there is a hurried bustle of Algerians and
Europeans. Soldiers and policemen, are very busy with their usual
requests for documents.
Hassiba’s arrival is quickly noticed for she is very pretty and
attracts much attention. Some soldiers whistle.
An elderly Algerian woman looks at her with dislike. Hassiba is
indifferent and waits her turn. A French soldier approaches her.
I’d like to search you, Miss …
For an instant, Hassiba is dismayed; then, she glances down at her
clinging shirt and pants.
The boy is young, handsome, and cheeky.
Not here. There’s too many people.
But you don’t understand. I was saying
that there’s nothing to search.
That’s what you think!
Some Europeans laugh, the Algerians seem not to see or hear, but it is
evident that they are scornful.
Are you going for a swim, Miss … all by
No, with some friends.
At the same time, she passes the blockade.
Lucky them. Next Sunday I’m free …. Shall
we go together?
Hassiba shrugs her shoulders, smiles again, and moves away.
59 BLOCKADE RUE DU DIVAN. OUTSIDE. DAY.
At the rue du Divan blockade, Zohra too is dressed like a European, and
seems to be calm.
There are not too many people. A soldier makes a sign for her to pass
in a hurried manner, and the girl passes.
60 BLOCKADE RUE DE LA LYRE. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Djamila is tense, pale, her features are strained. Her eyes seem even
larger with make-up. Now, at the blockade at rue de la Lyre, the Casbah
exit is blocked. An Algerian has been discovered without documents. He
argues, shouts, and says that he wants to go back.
The soldiers try to catch him, he struggles to get free.
Meanwhile the people push forward in protest. Two soldiers catch the
Algerian, and drag him bodily into the guard posts. The flow of people
Djamila steps forward, holding the cosmetic-case with both of her
hands. She doesn’t know how to carry it, and from time to time she
changes her position. She realizes that she looks awkward.
It’s now her turn. The soldiers’ tone is arrogant. The previous scene
has made them nervous. An officer signals her to pass, then points to
Instinctively, Djamila lifts the case and looks at it; she feels
herself failing, but makes an effort to answer.
Djamila uses all her strength to smile and she succeeds. Her eyes light
The officer signals her to pass.
61 FISH-MARKET. INSIDE. DAY. 6:15 P.M.
A large warehouse in the fish-market. There are enormous iceboxes with
cartons of frozen fish and tubs with running water and live fish. The
three girls are next to one another.
The three bags are on top of the counter, a few steps away. With them
is a thin Algerian about twenty-five years old. He has thick black
hair, straight and combed neatly. He is wearing glasses. With his rough
and nervous hands, he pulls out the towel and bathing suit from
Hassiba’s bag, then delicately and carefully, a square wooden box. He
opens it, and turning to the girl, signals her to move away a bit. The
girl steps back. In the box, there is a huge iron tube, sealed at both
ends by two clock dials. Inside the tube, two batteries with wires are
attached to the dials. The youth glances at his wristwatch, then
adjusts the hands of the dials to six forty-five. He puts the bomb back
into the box, closes it, and places it in the bag. He replaces the
towel and bathing suit, then hands the bag to Hassiba. He is smiling
Hassiba takes the bag and goes away.
The box fits perfectly into Djamila’s cosmetic-case. The youth opens it
without removing it from the case, adjusts the two dials to six fifty,
puts everything back in its place, and hands the case to Djamila. He
smiles at her and she moves away. In the Air France bag, there are
newspapers and magazines on top, and the same box. The youth adjusts
the bomb to six fifty-five, arranges it again inside the bag, closes
the zipper, and hands the bag to Zohra. He smiles at her. His smile is
more genuine, less mechanical. There is less tension than before.
The youth smiles at the girl and says in Arabic:
May Allah protect you.
Zohra thanks him in a whisper, bends her head, and moves away. The
youth takes a cigarette from his shirt pocket, places it between his
lips, and lights it. His hand is trembling a little.
62 CAFETERIA RUE MICHELET. INSIDE. DAY. 6:30 P.M.
Cafeteria, rue Michelet 1. The club is very crowded. There are two
rooms; one at the entrance with an American-style bar, and one at the
back with tables. It is Saturday, and at this hour many European
families go out to have an ice cream. There is not too much confusion
or uproar. The people are calm, they take their places at the bar and
small tables, and eat their ice cream while chatting quietly.
Hassiba enters, glances at the large clock above the cash register. It
is half past six. She goes to the register and waits her turn. The
different orders mingle; she orders a Coca-Cola. They give her the
check. She pays.
She goes to the bar; all the seats are taken. She gives her order and
the ticket to the waiter.
A man moves aside, looks at her, then steps down from his stool and
offers it to her.
Hassiba tells him that it doesn’t matter, but the man insists. Hassiba
thanks him and sits down. The man is about fifty, well groomed. He
smiles again, and turns to chat with some friends.
Hassiba settles herself more comfortably on the seat, then removes the
bag from her shoulder. Holding it by the strap, she places it on the
floor below the counter behind the brass railing used to lean one’s
The waiter has brought her the drink. Hassiba drinks slowly, from time
to time glancing at the clock. She finishes drinking. The bag is in a
Moving her feet slowly and carefully, Hassiba lets the bag slip on its
She gets down from the seat, and points it out to the man who is
standing next to her.
I’m giving your seat back.
Are you already leaving, Miss?
Hassiba smiles, nods yes.
Good evening …
The man sits down.
Good evening …
63 MILK BAR. RUE D’ISLY. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
Milk Bar, rue d’Isly, at the corner of Place Bugeand. The jukebox is
playing full blast. It is a bar for young people. There is much bustle
and confusion, much laughter. The girls are making plans for Sunday.
Djamila enters and moves to the jukebox which is in the corner near the
door. There are playbills for various theater performances hanging on
the wall. Djamila stops to look at them and reads the bottom lines. She
places the cosmetic-case on the floor. Rising again she looks around
her, and pushes the case behind the jukebox with her foot …
64 AIR FRANCE. IMMEUBLE MAURETANIA. INSIDE. DAY.
Maison Blanche, Immeuble Mauretania. The entire ground floor is filled
with ticket counters and a waiting room for the airlines. There are
some employees, stewardesses and some travelers.
Zohra passes through the large glass door at the entrance, goes to the
Air France counter, takes a time schedule, then goes to sit down on a
sofa which runs along the opposite wall. She sits down and places the
airline bag on the ground in front of her, and begins to leaf through
the timetable, from time to time glancing around. Using her heels, she
pushes the bag under the sofa.
She looks at the large electric clock which is hanging in the center of
the room; it is forty minutes past six.
65 CAFETERIA RUE MICHELET. INSIDE. DAY.
It is six forty-four by the cafeteria clock. The second hand is moving.
There are more or less the same people. The old man is still seated on
the barstool, and continues to chat.
Hassiba’s bag is still at his feet; the second hand is racing. A five-
year-old child hands a coin to the waiter:
Ice cream …
The father and mother are watching him, delighted. The waiter smiles at
the child and points to the cash register. He speaks to the child in
the usual tone of a grownup when speaking to children:
You have to go there first … and then
come back to me.
The second hand reaches twenty-five, then thirty. The child goes to the
cashier and pays. The cashier smiles at him and gives him the check.
What a good boy …
The child returns to the counter. The waiter has already prepared the
ice cream for him, and hands it to him. The child is standing on
66 CAFETERIA MICHELET. EXPLOSION. INSIDE. DAY.
The second hand, the explosion: bodies flung into the air, arms, legs,
white smoke, screams.
Bodies thrown outside, the doors unhinged, the windows broken, empty.
The people watch from their windows, the passersby move closer, they
bend down to look at those who are writhing on the ground.
Astonished and incredulous faces. No one speaks. Only screams and
weeping. Sirens which are drawing nearer. Firemen and police
67 MILK BAR. RUE D’ISLY. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The ambulance sirens on rue d’Isly, one car after another.
At the Milk Bar, the people go to the doors to look at the ambulances
which are racing toward Place Bugeand. The sirens fade in the distance
and move away. The jukebox is again loud: “Brigitte Bardot, Bardot …”
The people re-enter the bar, chattering, to have their apéritifs. It is
six fifty: the explosion.
68 MILK BAR. EXPLOSION. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The jukebox is flung into the middle of the street. There is blood,
strips of flesh, material, the same scene as at the Cafeteria; the
white smoke and shouts, weeping, hysterical girls’ screams. One of them
no longer has an arm and runs around, howling despairingly; it is
impossible to control her. The sound of sirens is heard again. The
crowd of people, the firemen, police, ambulances all rush to the scene
from Place Bugeand.
The ambulances arrive at rue Michelet.
They are already loaded with dead and wounded. The relatives of the
wounded are forced to get out. The father of the child who was buying
ice cream seems to be in a daze: he doesn’t understand.
They pull him down by force. The child remains there, his blond head a
clot of blood.
The policemen try to bring order to the chaos, are forced to shout,
push, threaten. The wounded swarm around the ambulances. A Commissioner
sends off the first one.
What time is it?
A quarter to seven.
The Commissioner goes to the second ambulance, pulls down a man who is
trying to enter by force, slams the door, and shouts to the driver. His
face is pale and drawn; the veins of his neck are swollen.
Go away, for God’s sake!
The auto leaves and now, the third explosion resounds in the distance.
It is heard clearly and violently from the Mauretania section.
The Commissioner stops midway in his last gesture, and likewise, all
the others, who are paralyzed with fright, incapable of taking action
again, of accepting such reality for a third time.
In Place Bugeand, there also, the people are motionless. All of them
are looking in the same direction. Their faces are alike in their
terror, alike in their sense of impotence, alike in their deep sadness.
69 STREET. EUROPEAN CITY. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The sun appears, then hides behind black clouds. There is a cool wind.
It is ten in the morning, and the European city has its usual rapid and
efficient rhythm of every day at this hour, only there is terror
written on the face of every person. That same terror has remained, and
suspicion, and despairing impotence.
Patrols of soldiers and policemen move around the city, search
Algerians and some Europeans, stop automobiles, trucks, buses, and
trams that they block at both doors.
At the entrance to every shop, the owner searches every customer before
letting him enter.
He does so politely with a drawn smile, and methodically rummages
through every handbag, every package.
So too in the bars, in the offices, in workshops … And now that it is
already late afternoon, also outside the brothels, the cinemas, the
70 LEMONS STREET. OUTSIDE. SUNSET.
A young Algerian boy thirteen or fourteen years old, wearing sandals
without socks, trousers that reach to his ankles, walks quickly
carrying a cardboard box tied with a cord. It is dusk.
A European woman sees him pass in front of her, looks at him, and
follows him with her glance.
On the sidewalk there are some youths. The woman points to the Algerian
boy, says something. The traffic is heavy. Her words are unclear. One
youth calls to the boy who is by now thirty feet away:
Hey, little rat …
The boy turns around for a second, his face frightened, and quickens
his step. The youths follow behind him and the boy begins to run. The
youths too begin to run and others join them, people who are passing.
They form a small mob and are shouting. The boy shoots into a
sidestreet, drops his box, and races ahead.
While some chase the boy, others stop around the box, make way, look
for a policeman, a soldier, an officer. A circle continues to form
around the box. A patrol arrives. One of the soldiers has a Geiger
counter. He moves near the box, carefully placing the counter above it,
then ceasing to be prudent, he takes his bayonette, cuts the cord, and
tears open the box: lemons.
71 STREET CORNER. OUTSIDE. SUNSET.
The boy has been cornered, surrounded, pinned down, kicked, hit with
umbrellas, until he is exhausted and can no longer defend himself. He
is no longer moving. He is lying on the ground, dead. The air is gray
now, and slowly all the colors unite to form gray. Lights are lit in
the city and contrast with the whiteness of the Casbah high above. The
sky is still clear, the black profiles of the mountains, the straight
coasts on the sea, the sea itself that seems to be land until it
reaches the horizon where the moon rises between the clouds.
“Following a lengthy discussion, the
General Assembly of the United Nations has
decided its agenda for the forthcoming
(1) re-unification of Korea
(3) the Algerian question.
Colombia has proposed that only the first
two points be discussed for the day.
However, the Afro-Asian nations opposed,
underlining the importance they attribute
to the Algerian question …”
72 SEA-FRONT. OUTSIDE. DAY. JANUARY 10, 1957.
The European crowd applauds, their eyes aglow, their mouths wide open,
shouting and yelling, their teeth flashing in the sun. Clapping of
applause on the sea-front of Algiers. Children, are held up to see,
waving small flags. The paratroopers of the Tenth Division march past.
“Mr. Raymond Lefevre, Inspector General
of the Administration, has presided over
a meeting in which important decisions
have been taken with the aim of securing
public order and the protection of
persons and their property. In particular,
it has been decided to recall the ‘Tenth’
Division of paratroopers to Algiers that,
until now, has been employed in the
antiguerrilla operations on the Cabiro
plateau. The Commander General of the
Tenth Division will assume responsibility
for the maintenance of order in Algiers,
and will have at his disposal in order to
achieve this goal, all civil and military
means provided for the defense of the
Massu and the authorities are standing on the balconies of the
The paras are marching, their sleeves rolled up, their faces sunburned.
Machine guns, bazookas, crew-cuts, the eyes of singing boys, silent
steps, one battalion after another.
The dragon “black berets” pass by …
The “red berets” of the 2nd Regiment of colonial paratroopers …
“Les casquettes” of the 3rd Regiment parade by; “les hommes-peints,”
Colonel Mathieu is at the head of the regiment. He is tall, slender,
over fifty. He has thinning gray hair, a lean face, blue eyes, and a
wide forehead. His face is lined with many wrinkles. Were it not for
the uniform, the weapons, his tanned skin, his manner of walking, and
his energetic voice when giving orders, he wouldn’t seem a soldier, but
The 3rd Regiment colonial paratroopers are now before the Commissioner.
Mathieu turns his head slightly and:
3rd Regiment! Attention à droite …
Family name: Mathieu; Name: Philippe;
Born in Rennes May 3, 1906; Rank:
Lieutenant Colonel; Schooling:
Politechnique-degree in Engineering;
Campaigns: Second World War, Anti-Nazi
Resistance Movement, Italian Campaign,
Indochinese War, Algerian War …
73 VILLA HEADQUARTERS. INSIDE. DAY.
In a villa in the military headquarters, a reception room is visible
through a large window on the first floor. There are about twenty
officers seated in rows of chairs as if for a lecture. Mathieu is in
front of them and he is speaking while standing next to a desk. At his
back there is a blackboard, and near it, a large map with pyramid
graphs, cells, arrows, crossmarks, and, above them, the title:
STRUCTURE NLF AUTONOMOUS ZONE OF ALGIERS.
Mathieu’s voice has nothing of the military and traditional. His tone
is neither harsh nor cold, but rather kind and pleasing; from it
emanates a superior authority imposed by reason and not by position.
The result is that in the last two
months, they have reached an average of
4.2 assaults per day, including
aggression against individuals, and the
explosions. Of course, the conditions of
the problem are as usual: first, the
adversary; second, the method to destroy
him … There are 80,000 Arabs in the
Casbah. Are they all against us? We know
they are not. In reality, it is only a
small minority that dominates with
terror and violence. This minority is
our adversary and we must isolate and
destroy it …
While speaking, he goes to the window, and pulls down the shade. He
interrupts his speech, points to the rest of the window:
Draw it down there too …
Two or three officers stand up to perform the task. At the back of the
room there is a movie projector.
Next to it there is a para who is preparing to operate it.
The other shades are drawn, and gradually the room is darkened.
Mathieu, meanwhile, has resumed speaking:
He is an adversary who shifts his
position above and below the surface with
highly commendable revolutionary methods
and original tactics. … He is an
anonymous and unrecognizable enemy who
mingles with thousands of others who
resemble him. We find him everywhere: in
the alleys of the Casbah; in the streets
of the European city, and in working
Mathieu interrupts himself again and makes a signal to the back of the
room which is completely darkened.
Go ahead, Martin.
Martin turns on the projector. On the white wall next to the map and
graph appear pictures of the Casbah. There are the blockades, the
barbed wire, the metal screens, the Algerians who exit and enter, the
policemen and soldiers who examine documents and frisk someone. From
time to time, close-ups of the pictures are shown, enlarged to the
minutest details, close-ups of faces, motionless images that last only
for a few seconds.
Here is some film taken by the police.
The cameras were hidden at the Casbah
exits. They thought these films might be
useful, and in fact they are useful in
demonstrating the usefulness of certain
methods. Or, at least, their inadequacy.
Hassiba is now seen and the soldiers who are wooing her, while she
laughs, jokes, flirts in a provocative manner, and passes the blockade.
I chose these films because they were
shot in the hours preceding some recent
terroristic assaults. And so, among all
these Arabs, men and women, there are the
ones responsible. But which ones are they?
How can we recognize them? Controlling
documents is ridiculous: one who has
everything in order is most likely to be
An Algerian is being dragged away while protesting, kicking, and trying
to free himself. And then the scene changes. There is another Casbah
exit, and an Algerian who is being searched.
Note the intuition of the cameraman. He
realized that in that box, there had to
be something of interest, and he paused
to focus it.
The picture is enlarged. The small box which the Algerian is carrying
on his shoulder is seen in detail. It is opened. The box is swarming
with snakes; the soldier who had wanted to examine it jumps backward.
The officers in the room burst into laughter.
Maybe the bomb was hidden right there, in
a double bottom. Who knows? We’ll never
Using the barrel of his machine gun, a soldier has closed the box. A
snake has managed to jump out, and fallen to the ground. The people are
terrified and move away. Others laugh, among them, Petit Omar, who
seems to be an ordinary child enjoying himself.
That’s enough, Martin …
The lights are again switched on in the room. Mathieu is again next to
the desk, and waits a second until the buzz of comments subsides.
We must start again from scratch. The only
information that we have concerns the
structure of the organization. And we
shall begin from that …
He takes a wooden pointer from the desk in order to illustrate the
graph, while he speaks with the tone and precision of a university
It is a pyramid-like organization divided
into a series of sectors. At the top of
the pyramid is their General Staff.
He has moved near the blackboard, and taken some chalk, and slowly as
he speaks, he illustrates his speech.
The military commander responsible for
the executive body finds the right man
and nominates him to responsibility for
a sector: number one. Number one in his
turn, chooses another two: number two and
number three … And so they form the
He has written high on the board a number one and below it, with some
space between them, the numbers two and three. He unites the three
numbers with lines and forms a triangle.
Now number two and number three choose,
in their turn, two men each … number
four and five, and so on …
Mathieu writes the new numbers, spacing them on the next line. Then he
unites two to four and five, and three to six and seven, forming two
Mathieu has written other numbers and unites them to those of the
preceding line and thus forms other triangles. Now the blackboard is
covered by a series of triangles that form a large pyramid.
The reason for this geometry is so that
every militant will know only three
members in the entire organization: his
commander who has chosen him, and the two
members that he himself has chosen …
Contacts take place only by written
instructions … That is why we do not
know our adversaries: because, in
practice, they do not even know each
Mathieu leaves the blackboard and moves near the officers. The tone of
his voice changes. The explanation is now finished. He gives
To know them means to eliminate them.
Consequently, the military aspect is
secondary to the police method. I know we
are not fond of this word, but it is the
only word that indicates exactly the type
of work that we must perform. We must
make the necessary investigations in
order to proceed from one vertex to
another in the entire pyramid. The
reason for this work is information. The
method is interrogation. And
interrogation becomes a method when
conducted in a manner so as to always
obtain a result, or rather, an answer.
In practice, demonstrating a false
humanitarianism only leads to the
ridiculous and to impotence. I am
certain that all the units will
understand and react accordingly.
However, success does not depend solely
on us. We need to have the Casbah at our
disposal. We must sift through it … and
interrogate everyone. And here is where
we find ourselves hindered by a
conspiracy of laws and regulations that
continue to be operative, as if Algiers
were a holiday resort and not a
battleground. We have requested a carte
blanche. But it is very difficult to
obtain. Therefore, it is necessary to
find an excuse to legitimize our
intervention, and make it possible. It
is necessary to create it ourselves —
this excuse. Unless our adversaries will
think of it themselves, which seems to be
what they are doing.
74 ALLEY UPPER CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAY.
It is not a song, but a type of spoken chorus, an assembly of young
voices, words whispered from the throat, both high and low, and sudden
silent pauses. It is monotonous; but it is just such a repetition,
always with the same pattern of tones — high, low, then, silent —
that manages to transform itself into a motif, reach an excited pitch,
and acquire breadth and solemnity. The sound fills the alleys, rises
toward the long rectangle of sky, and moves farther away as if it were
meant to be heard by all.
The alley is narrow and sloping, with crumbling walls, tufts of grass,
and refuse. It is located at the outer periphery of the Casbah — the
countryside is in the background. An Algerian is walking with large
steps; a five-year-old child is behind him, moving quickly, stumbling
from time to time on the pavement; although he does not cry,
occasionally he calls to his father, who proceeds forward, and does not
turn around. The chorus arises from behind them. It is incoherent. They
stop in front of a door; they have arrived. The door gives way and they
75 KORAN SCHOOL. INSIDE. DAY.
A large room, like a shop or stable. Here too, on the ground and
pavement, there are tufts of grass. It is cold. The walls are
unplastered, the windows boarded. The roof is in sight, but not the
beams. The roof is made of tiles and covered with a coat of whitewash.
There are about twenty children, five to eight years old, seated on the
floor. The teacher is in front of them; he too is seated. He is
prompting the verses in a low voice, almost in a whisper, and the
chorus repeats it.
The Koran School: a bare, wobbling place.
The Algerian who has entered takes the child by his hand, and
accompanies him to the teacher who is now standing; the chorus
continues; the other children, do not look at the two who have just
The Algerian and the teacher greet each other, bringing their hands to
their hearts, and then to their mouths. At the same time, the teacher
takes an envelope from under his tunic, and hands it over to the other.
“To all militants! After two years of
hard struggle in the mountains and city,
the Algerian people have obtained a great
victory. The UN Assembly has placed the
Algerian question in its forthcoming
agenda. The discussion will begin on
Monday, January 28. Starting Monday, for
a duration of eight days, the NLF is
calling a general strike. For the
duration of this period, all forms of
armed action or attempts at such are
suspended. We are requesting that all
militants mobilize for the strike’s
organization and success.”
The Algerian has hidden the envelope inside his tunic, then presents
the child to the teacher, who makes him sit down with the other
children The teacher also returns to his place and sits down, and
suggests a new phrase; the chorus continues. The Algerian leaves the
76 ALLEY UPPER CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Having passed through the door, he again moves along the alley, this
time descending, with hurried steps. The chorus continues, again heard
from without, but its echo is now different.
77 VARIOUS VIEWS CASBAH. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
Bars, stores, market stalls, “Arab baths.” Typewritten pieces of paper
are used to wrap purchases, or slipped inside bags, or used on the
blank side to add up bills and then handed to the customers.
78 VARIOUS VIEWS EUROPEAN CITY. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY.
In the European city the Algerian workers: at the docks, the central
gas company; on the trams; the waiters in the restaurants, in the bars;
the shoeshine men
“Algerian brothers! A great hope has
arisen for us. The world is watching us.
The next few days may be decisive for our
future and our freedom. The colonial
powers will attempt to demonstrate to the
UN that the NFL does not represent the
will of our people. Our response will be
unanimous support of the general strike.”
79 SEA-FRONT. OUTSIDE. DAY.
At the sea-front, there is a newspaper boy, about twelve years old,
barefoot. His voice is shrill yet cheerful. He is smiling.
Le Monde! Le Monde! General strike! …
Some Europeans buy the newspaper, half-heartedly, grumbling
disagreeably. The boy remains cheerful, places the change inside the
bag strapped to his shoulder, thanks them.
Now he passes in front of a beggar, an elderly Algerian who is leaning
against a railing.
The boy winks at him, while he continues to shout:
“During the eight days of the strike, do
not frequent the European city, or leave
the Casbah. Provide lodgings in your
homes for the poor, the beggars, the
brothers who do not have homes. Store
provisions of food and water for eight
80 CASBAH STREETS AND SHOPS. INSIDE/OUTSIDE. DAY.
There is a strange atmosphere in the Casbah. People are greeting each
other in the streets; a thick buzz of voices, a festive mood, a sense
of brotherhood, and the children, who are taking advantage of the
situation and play and run everywhere.
The shops are unusually crowded. The people enter and exit, loaded with
supplies. In the shops too, there is the same festive mood, almost as
if the supplies were for a trip to the country. The shopkeepers are
And the poor customers, instead of paying, hand over a ticket stamped
81 CASBAH BLOCKADE. OUTSIDE. DAY. SUNSET. SUNDAY. JANUARY 27, 1957.
Late afternoon, at the blockades of rue de la Lyre, rue du Divan, and
rue Marengo. The Casbah exit ramps are deserted, while the entrance
ramps are overflowing with people. Here too, there is an intangible air
of gaiety, witty remarks, laughter, ironic glances toward the soldiers
and policemen with cold faces, immobile — helmets and machine guns —
who stand at the entrances without intervening.
The image is shortened and focused through the lenses of binoculars.
82 GOVERNMENT PALACE. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. SUNSET.
A paratrooper officer looks at the blockades of rue du Divan from a
Government Palace balcony. Mathieu is beside him.
No one is leaving, eh?
The officer hands him the binoculars.
No. They continue to enter, the rats.
Mathieu looks through the binoculars, and comments in a low voice,
Rats in a trap, we hope …
But do you believe that the strike will
Without a doubt.
Behind the two officers, through a large open window, a room is
visible. There is a large table, and around it, other high officers of
the various armed forces, and some important officials in plainclothes.
A general, who has his back to the balcony, turns and calls Mathieu:
Mathieu! Mathieu, a name …
Yes, a name for the operation.
Mathieu moves the binoculars from the blockades and turns slowly around
the Government square, until he reaches an advertising sign for a brand
of champagne which now, in the dusk, lights up with a sporadic rhythm:
CORDON … ROUGE.
Mathieu pauses then turns toward the room, and enters smiling:
Champagne … All right?
The general repeats absent-mindedly:
Champagne … Champagne.
(then, in a convinced voice)
Operation Champagne, yes, alright.
83 RUE DU DIVAN BLOCKADE. OUTSIDE. EVENING.
At the rue du Divan blockade, there is an incoherent, monotonous, and
irritating chant. There is a blind beggar. He is light-complexioned,
tall and thin, his beard long, his arms stretched out, a cane in his
hand. He arrives at last at the entrance ramp, tries to find the way,
but cannot. He tries again and again with his cane, continually
repeating his sorrowful chant, until a policeman takes him by his free
hand, placing the hand roughly on the metal screen.
Go on! Go on!
The beggar protests and waves his cane in a way that the policeman has
to duck to prevent himself from being hit. The policeman curses,
A soldier starts to laugh. The old man takes up his chant again, and
moves forward leaning on the metal screen. On the other side of the
blockade, behind the square, there is a group of veiled girls who have
seen the old man, and seem to be waiting for him.
Two of them go to meet him, and each one takes one of his arms. At the
touch of their hands, the old man is again infuriated. Even the girls
laugh. Then, one of them speaks to him slowly in a loud voice.
It seems that the old man has understood. He is convinced. He mumbles
something kindly and lets them accompany him.
84 CASBAH ALLEY. FRONT DOOR. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
A poorly lit alley. A group of unemployed men and beggars are standing
in front of a door.
One of the three companions consults a list, then points to two in the
group. He signals them to enter.
85 KADER’S HOUSE. INSIDE. NIGHT.
In the inner courtyard, there is an elderly man who awaits them and
receives them kindly.
They greet each other in the customary Algerian manner.
Courtyard and balcony.
On the terrace also, someone is looking toward the courtyard. Kader is
on the terrace together with a man about forty years old, dressed in
European clothes, he has narrow shoulders and a sunken chest. His face
is sensitive, his forehead high, and his hair and eyes black. His eyes
are kind and thoughtful and twinkle with irony.
He is Ben M’Hidi, one of the four members of the CCE, the Central
They are beggars and unemployed, homeless.
We have organized things in such a way
that during the strike they will be
guests of other families who have homes
and will provide shelter in the event of
possible reprisals … But I didn’t know
that they would be brought to this house
too. It is a mistake.
Because you are here too. It would be
better for you to move to another house.
Ben M’Hidi moves away from the parapet.
All right … You’re the one who must
Kader follows him along the terrace.
No, if I were the one to decide, you
wouldn’t be in Algiers now.
Ben M’Hidi looks at him, smiling.
Why? Isn’t it wise?
Kader smiles too, and repeats:
It isn’t wise.
At the end of the terrace, there is a construction raised to a level
with the stairs that lead to the floor below. There is a large room;
through the open door, the lighted interior is visible. The walls have
high brick baseboards, and at the bottom of one of the four walls there
is a square opening that leads into a hiding place. The closure of the
hiding place, a square of very thick wall, is placed to one side. Ali
la Pointe is covering it with bricks.
On the other side of the room next to the door, there are some cement
wash-basins, and a shed for rain water. Kader appears at the door.
Ali, you must accompany Ben M’Hidi to the
Maison des Arbres.
Ali doesn’t answer immediately. He finishes placing the last brick then
turns to Kader.
Why? Isn’t he sleeping here?
No, it’s better if he doesn’t. The house
is filled with new people.
Ali gets up, wipes his hands on his trousers, at the same time
inspecting the work that he has just completed.
Here’s another one ready. What a hideout!
It really looks like a wall. I’ll dirty
it a bit, and it’s perfect. Want to give
a look inside?
Kader has taken a machine gun from one of the basins, and he tosses it
to Ali, who catches it.
No, go now. It’s already late.
They go out on the terrace. Ali releases the catch of his machine gun
so that the bullet slips into the barrel.
(to Ben M’Hidi)
They are a family of militants from way
back. Everything will work out well,
you’ll see … C’mon, Ali, hurry up.
Alright. See you tomorrow.
They say good-bye, embracing one another. Ali has already climbed over
the terrace wall, and has jumped to the next one.
Ben M’Hidi follows him; he is less agile and moves with a bit of
From the parapet, Kader says to him:
Passing along the terraces only takes
five minutes … and with Ali la Pointe,
you’ll be safe …
While jumping, Ben M’Hidi loses his balance, and has to grab on to Ali
to prevent himself from falling.
But it’s he who won’t be safe with me …
The two figures move away from terrace to terrace, and disappear in the
86 CASBAH VIEWS AND TERRACES. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
In the dark in front of them, a metallic reflection is visible and the
sharp and aggressive sound of an Algerian voice is heard.
Ali responds to the password.
A youth steps out from the shadows. He too is carrying a machine gun,
recognizes Ali, and greets him. Ali and Ben M’Hidi continue …
87 MAISON DES ARBRES, TERRACE. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
Until they arrive at a terrace which is separated from the next one by
an alley about ten feet wide.
Here it is … we’ve arrived …
Ben M’Hidi glances at the emptiness beneath them, looks at Ali, and
takes a deep breath.
Not yet …
Ali has climbed onto the parapet, looks around him concentrating
attentively for a moment, and then jumps into the void, reaching the
opposite side. He bends, searches for something in the dark, and lifts
a type of gangplank.
He hands it over to Ben M’Hidi, and together they place it between the
Be careful now. Unless you know how it
works, it’s better if you sit on the plank
and move forward like this …
Let’s try …
He tries to stand up on the gangplank, but he lacks the necessary
steadiness. He can’t hold his balance. He does as Ali has advised him;
he sits astride on the plank, and using the force of his arms, he
pushes himself forward. He stops halfway to rest for a minute.
It’s good nobody is following us …
It’s a question of habit …
And when Ben M’Hidi is closer, Ali helps him to get down to the terrace.
It’s better if I go first, to make sure
everything’s okay …
Without waiting for an answer, he moves toward the stairway that leads
to the floor below; his movements are silent and graceful.
Ben M’Hidi leans out from the terrace, and looks toward the European
city and the sea. At the port, two searchlights are lit, and their long
bright rays move slowly toward the Casbah …
When Ali la Pointe returns, Ben M’Hidi is still leaning on the railing.
He seems not to hear the sound of Ali’s footsteps, or his voice.
Everything’s okay … They’re waiting for
Ali moves near him, and Ben M’Hidi turns and looks at him.
What do you think of the strike, Ali?
I think it’ll be a success …
Yes, I think so too … It’s been
organized well … But what will the
Both the question, and the answer seem obvious to Ali.
It’s clear. They’ll do everything
possible to make it fail.
No, they’ll do even more. We’ve given
them the opportunity to do a lot more …
Do you understand what I mean? Starting
tomorrow, they won’t be groping in the
dark any more; every shop and every
worker who strikes will be a known enemy,
a self-confessed criminal … And they
will be able to pass to the offensive.
Have you thought of this?
Ali has listened attentively. The effort with which he is trying to ask
himself the meaning of these words is visible on his face.
(shaking his head)
But Kader told me that you weren’t in
favor of the strike.
No, and neither were my men.
Because they told us that we mustn’t use
weapons, now, when the time is right.
That’s true … Wars aren’t won with
terrorism, neither wars nor revolutions.
Terrorism is a beginning but afterward,
all the people must act … This is the
reason for the strike, and its necessity:
to mobilize all Algerians, count them and
measure their strength …
To show them to the UN, right?
Yes … yes. The problem also involves the
UN. I don’t know what it’s worth, but this
way, we’ll give the UN the possibility of
evaluating our strength.
Ali breathes deeply, instinctively, unrestrainedly, Ben M’Hidi watches
him, smiles, and says:
Do you know something Ali? Starting a
revolution is hard, and it’s even harder
to continue it. Winning is hardest of all.
But only afterward, when we have won,
will the real hardships begin.
He pats Ali’s back fondly with his hand and continues, smiling:
Anyway, there’s still a lot to be done
… you aren’t already tired, Ali, are
Ali looks at him, and without reacting to his irony:
88 VARIOUS HOUSES. CASBAH. OUTSIDE. DAWN. JANUARY 28, 1957.
It is gray and smoky dawn, a slow reabsorption of the night, an opaque
light which is diffused, sprayed, frozen, to transparency, and
rediscovers its outlines and perspectives; and finally, the sun, golden
light, awakens all Algiers. To the north, the sea. To the south, the
mountains and the Casbah, situated halfway along the coast. The Casbah,
still, inert, expectant, on this first day of the strike …
The paratroopers are already at their places, one after another, at
equal distances like links of a very long chain, strung through every
alley, spreading to every sidestreet, twisting through the squares,
climbing up the stairways, dividing, joining, and lengthening again.
The silence is perfect; the camouflaged immobile forms seem to be part
of the landscape.
Then a brief and sharp hiss, a hundred whistles together.
A signal releases the still forms: the attack begins.
Doors are beaten down, shots, screams, rifle fire, machine gun fire;
the doors opened or broken down; the courtyards, the houses, the rooms,
invaded; the men who are trying to escape and who protest and try to
Of course … I was just going to work …
89 BEN M’HIDI’S HIDING PLACE. INSIDE. DAWN.
Ben M’Hidi is inside the hiding place. From outside, an old man helps
him to place the square piece of wall over the entrance, and then, in
the spaces between the bricks, he adds a paste of plaster mixed with
coal dust. When the paras arrive, everything is in order.
Still men are being seized, beaten, dragged; a cache of weapons; men
pushed down the stairs:
Go on, go on, you little rats! Get to
90 CASBAH. STREETS. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
Women are clinging together after the beatings.
Someone is fleeing toward the terraces. We hear the deafening whirl of
the helicopters flying against the wind, their cabin doors open, paras
sitting on both sides with their legs dangling out, their machine guns
on their knees, a loudspeaker for every helicopter, microphones turned
on in such a way that the din of the motors is multiplied a hundred
The helicopters fly low again, they skirt the terraces.
The Algerians are fleeing in terror, the uproar begins to fade away, is
less intense; microphones are turned on, and off. The terraces are
emptied, men seized, beaten, dragged; all the men are forced outside in
the alleys, the streets, the squares, every man is forced to face the
wall, his hands up.
91 SHOPS. DOORS UNHINGED. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
A truck in reverse, a rope fastened to the hub of the wheels, its other
end to a door-latch. The motor is accelerated, clouds of exhaust
Door latches pried open like lids of sardine cans, shop windows smashed
with machine-gun butts, the counters, the shelves, flung into the air,
the merchandise thrown into the streets; a game, a frenzied
The Algerians watch, but can not intervene. Some shopkeepers rush to
the scene, crying despairingly, while others are dragged away forcibly,
tossed about, slapped, pushed, forced to open their shops.
92 CANDY SHOP. INSIDE. MORNING.
A shopkeeper is pushed behind the counter; he gets up, trembling with
A para asks him for a bag of candy, pays politely, smiles, pats his
bald head, and asks him sweetly:
And the strike, my friend?
Then he distributes the candy among the children who are outside.
93 CANDY SHOP. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
The children take the candy silently, without thanking him, then eat
the candies slowly, their faces unfriendly and cold …
94 PLACE DU GOUVERNEMENT. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
The black sky, the trees, the advertising signs … Cordon Rouge …
… an equestrian statue, a car radio, a loudspeaker.
“Attention, people of the Casbah! The NLF
wants to stop you from working. The NLF
forces you to close your shops.
Inhabitants of the Casbah, rebel against
their orders. France is your country.
France has given you civilization and
prosperity: schools, streets, hospitals.
People of the Casbah, show your love for
your mother country, by disobeying the
terrorists’ orders. Algerians, return to
And then Algerian music, a cheerful and rhythmical melody; the
Algerians are forced out of the Casbah in columns, and are pushed
toward the military trucks which clutter the southern side of the
square, and continue to arrive and depart.
95 CASBAH. EXIT. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
Meanwhile the paras of the psychological divisions make their first
selection, randomly, or else deliberately, basing them on the slightest
suspicions. They evaluate each man by his appearance or behavior. They
block the Algerians from the exit ramp, and assault them with a battery
Who are you? What’s your name? Occupation?
Where do you work? Why did you strike?
They forced you, eh? … No … Tell the
truth! You promised them, right? Then
you’re the one who wants to strike. Do
you belong to the NLF? C’mon, answer me!
Are you afraid to say it? Never mind, it
The Algerian does not answer, but stares into the para’s eyes. The para
turns to his companions and shouts:
Jacques! … Jacques! … Another one to
The Algerian is seized, and pushed toward the truck.
“Attention, Algerians! The NLF wants to
stop you from working. The NLF forces you
to close your shops. The NLF wants to
starve you and condemn you to misery.
Algerians, return to work … !”
96 THE PORT. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The port is deserted, the cranes still. A loaded ship sways lazily at
her moorings, the fork-lifts are filled with supplies …
The limestone is dried out, the bridges empty, dangling cables swing
slowly from the pulleys. There is silence in the docks …
Then, the sound of motors approaching, clouds of dust, Arabs pushed out
of the trucks, into the shipyard.
97 STREETS OF ALGIERS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
In the streets of the European city, there is an atmosphere of fear and
doubt. The shop windows have their shutters lowered halfway, the
shopkeepers are standing in the doorways, ready to close.
The front doors of houses are shut. There are a few hurried passersby
but no automobiles; the trams are not running; on the sidewalks the
garbage is piled high, nearby the long brooms of the Algerian street
Sweep, mes enfants, sweep.
An Algerian with a very refined expression, a gentle appearance, says,
while excusing himself:
I don’t know how, sir, I’m sorry …
They shove the broom into his hands, and shout to him:
“French citizens! Europeans of Algiers!
The strike called by the NLF is a failure.
Do not be afraid. Return to your jobs.
General Massu guarantees your safety.
The Army will protect you!”
98 STREETS OF ALGIERS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
A jeep with loudspeaker precedes a row of military trucks loaded with
In every truck there are two paras carrying machine guns by their
sides. The Algerians are standing crowded together one against the
other. Some of them are holding banners and signs:
I AM GOING TO WORK BECAUSE I AM FREE.
WE ARE FREE.
THE ARMY PROTECTS OUR RIGHTS.
The trucks turn a corner, a youth jumps from the last truck, falls,
gets up again, and breaks into a run.
The paras shout to him to stop, their voices mix with that of the
The Algerian continues to run.
A burst of machine-gun fire, then another.
The Algerian jerks forward, his back curved, his arms raised.
He falls down.
99 COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE. PRESS ROOM AND STAIRWAY. INSIDE. DAY.
Noise, confusion in the Commissioner’s office press room, ticking of
the teletype machines, throngs of journalists in the telephone room.
They are trying to transmit the first news.
Shouting in every language is heard.
We are now in the fourth day and the
strike continues, with total support by
the Arab population. The city is very
calm. However — Calm … Are you deaf?
The city is peaceful. In the Moslem
quarters, in the outskirts of the city,
in the Casbah … Bye, will call again,
Through the open door, Mathieu can be seen passing, accompanied by
another officer. Some journalists see him, and rush behind him. Some
others follow, four or five in all, trying to stop him.
Colonel, colonel … Excuse me, colonel,
a statement … We don’t know anything …
You promised us a press conference …
Now there is a meeting with the
Will you tell us what is happening?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We are still
weighing the situation.
They move to the landing and begin to ascend the stairway that leads to
the second floor. The journalists have difficulty keeping up with
Look around. I’ve put everything at your
disposal. Go take a look with your own
The strike is a success; but …
No. It has failed in its objective.
But the NLF has always spoken of a strike
as a demonstration …
And you believe the NLF?
They seemed to be plausible this time. A
general strike is a good argument for the
The UN is far away, dear sir. It is easier
to make oneself heard with bombs. If I
were in their place, I would use bombs.
Armed insurrection … but what is it
It is an armed insurrection …
They have arrived at the second-floor landing, hurry along, and stop in
front of a large door, where there is a written sign: PREFECT. Mathieu,
at the same time, has continued speaking.
It is an inevitable stage in revolutionary
war; from terrorism, one passes to
insurrection … as from open guerrilla
warfare one passes to real war, the latter
being the determining factor …
Dien Bien Phu?
Mathieu glances at the journalist, as if to see if there were any irony
in his remark, but the journalist’s face is expressionless.
In Indochina, they won.
It depends on you.
On us? You aren’t thinking of drafting us
by any chance, are you, colonel?
Mathieu leans his hand on the door handle and smiles at the
No! We have enough fighters. You have
only to write, and well, if possible.
What’s the problem then?
Political support. Sometimes it’s there,
sometimes not … sometimes, it’s not
enough. What were they saying in Paris
Nothing … Sartre has written another
Mathieu gestures and makes an expression as if to say: “see what I
mean?” At the same time, he opens the door. But before entering, he
turns again to the journalists.
Will you kindly explain to me why all the
Sartres are always born on the other side?
Then you like Sartre, colonel …
Not really, but he’s even less appealing
as an enemy.
100 PLACE DU GOUVERNEMENT AND RUE DU DIVAN BLOCKADE. OUTSIDE. SUNSET.
Place du Gouvernement, dusk, the other side of the blockade is silent,
only the uncovered eyes of the Algerian women who await their men.
The trucks continue to arrive: the men are forced to descend and
allowed to enter the Casbah. There is an atmosphere of sadness, for not
all the men have returned. The women look at them, scrutinize their
faces, from the first to the last in one glance, then slowly … one
face at a time. Some women recognize their husbands, or their brothers
or their sons, and run to meet them …
But others continue to ask for news in lowered, sorrowful voices.
Have you seen Mohamed? Where? When? Why
hasn’t he returned?
A steady hum of voices in Arabic; then the monotonous voice of a
policeman who speaks in the microphone of the loudspeaker.
“The NLF wants to stop you from working.
The NLF forces you to close your shops,
inhabitants of the Casbah, disobey their
orders. France has given you civilization
and prosperity: schools, streets,
hospitals. People of the Casbah! Show your
love for your mother country by disobeying
the terrorists’ orders.”
The loudspeaker is attached to one of the blockade posts, and from it a
long wire for the microphone is hanging. The policeman has a raspy and
bored voice; he stops speaking and leans the microphone on the table in
front of him. He gets up, lights a cigarette, and moves away a few
Two children are among the women and behind the wooden horses
barricades. They were waiting for this moment.
They bend, seem to be playing, but one of them lifts the barbed wire
as high as he can, from the ground. Petit Omar passes a wire
underneath, its farthest end bent in the form of a hook. He moves it
toward the microphone cord which is lying coiled on the ground. He
succeeds in clasping it and pulls it toward him slowly. The cord
unwinds, lengthens, stretches, until the microphone on the table begins
to move, until it reaches the edge of the table, and falls …
The noise re-echoes in the loudspeaker, but no one pays any attention
Petit Omar waits a second, then begins to pull again.
The microphone is dragged along the ground — a humming sound — it
moves nearer, inch by inch, forward, under the barbed wire, until the
children are able to take it, and disappear with it behind the women.
“Algerians! Brothers! Do not be afraid!
Algeria will be free. Be courageous,
brothers! Resist! Do not listen to what
they are telling you … Algeria will be
The voice is not violent, but gentle, somewhat breathless and hurried.
It extends to the whole square, so that all can hear it well: the
people stop what they are doing to listen. They are emotional, proud,
or angry, and look toward the sky where the voice seems to be diffused,
as if those words should be written up above.
The officer is slow to realize what has happened, looks at the
loudspeaker, the cord, and now grabs it, cursing. He pulls and tugs it;
the wire yields, and he wrenches it from the microphone.
The voice is no longer heard, nothing more, silence.
Silence, only that something is changed in the women’s eyes. The veils
that cover the lower half of their faces suddenly begin to tremble,
sway as if shaken by a breath, a light wind. There is no longer an
atmosphere of sadness, or silence.
The ju-jus attack the air, invade it, shake it, make it vibrate as if
they were electric charges, or the sound produced by the wind on a
field of dry reeds, or the sound produced by a hundred, a thousand
fingernails that are scratching a window pane …
101 HEADQUARTERS. PARA. OUTSIDE. DAY.
One, two, three, four … Inside! C’mon!
The five Algerians indicated are forced to get up, taken, pushed, and
brought inside a large deserted house which is the paras’ headquarters.
The other Algerians, about a hundred of them, are sitting on the
ground, in the clearing in front of the house, and the paras of the
first regiment continue to guard them with pointed machine guns …
Suddenly from the villa, the music of a French song comes forth at full
The Algerians look at each other nervously. Even a young para seems to
(turning to other para)
What are they doing?
Dancing inside …
102 HEADQUARTERS. VILLA. INSIDE. DAY.
A para rushes through a corridor carrying a tape recorder, enters a
room where there are some sergeants and an Algerian.
The adjoining room with white tiled walls and a sink is visible through
an open door. Two paras are sitting on the floor, smoking and chatting
between themselves in whispers.
The para places the tape recorder on the table. The Algerian is naked
to the waist. Signs of torture are visible. His face is swollen and
wet. The sergeant places the chair near him, and helps him to sit down,
then starts the tape recorder. He says to the Algerian who is
Go ahead! C’mon … Repeat everything
from the beginning, and then we’ll let
you go. Name …
Which “district” do you belong to?
Second district …
Second district … Explain better …
Second district, Casbah, West Algiers.
Third group. What’s your assignment?
Uh … responsible for the sixth section.
103 VILLA. HEADQUARTERS. INSIDE. DAY.
In a room on the ground floor, a captain is bent over a large map with
graphs, and is writing the name Sid Ahmed Sail in one of the blocks at
the bottom of the pyramid …
At the same time, paras are seen through the large window, bringing
other Algerians to the villa, and immediately afterward, the music and
song are heard again very loudly.
104 CASBAH ALLEY. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
Night, darkness, locked doors. The Casbah is silent. The paras tread
noiselessly on their rubber soles. Patrols.
A flashlight searches for the number of a door, then stops. A para
NOISES INSIDE. VOICES.
Who is it?
Sid Ahmed … Sid Ahmed Sail.
The door is opened, the paras break in.
105 ANOTHER ALLEY. CASBAH. OUTSIDE. NIGHT.
Another alley in the Casbah, other paras.
Another door forced open, broken into.
Algerians are crowded together in a courtyard which is illuminated with
They are being interrogated.
106 CASBAH STREET. OUTSIDE. DAY. RAIN.
A cloudy day, a light drizzle, a sloping street, Algerian music. A
company of zouaves walk two by two in the Casbah, through the alleys,
stop, play their music, and move on again, alternating Algerian music
and a French song.
Behind them, a line of donkeys with baskets full of packages and bags,
and cheerful paras who are joking, as they distribute the supplies to
the starving women and children, who stand ashamed in front of their
houses, their eyes lowered, their gestures too brusque, and hesitant.
“At the General Assembly of the United
Nations, none of the motions presented in
the course of the debate has obtained the
necessary majority. At last an agreement
has been reached on a resolution that
excludes any form of direct intervention
by the UN in the Algerian question. The
Assembly of the United Nations has limited
itself to expressing the hope that in a
spirit of cooperation, a peaceful,
democratic, and just solution will be
found, that conforms to the principles of
the United Nations Charter …”
The monotony of the last words is drowned out and lost. It is raining
more heavily now. The water has begun to run along the sloping alleys.
The walls are gray, wet; the doors of the cafes and shops are barred
with signs nailed upon them.
THIS SHOP HAS SUPPORTED THE NLF STRIKE.
THE PREFECT HAS ORDERED ITS CLOSING UNTIL
The band of zouaves has stopped again, and now they are playing “La vie
107 VILLA HEADQUARTERS. INSIDE. DAWN.
In some parts of the villa a gramophone is playing “La vie en rose.”
In the room on the first floor, through the large window, the whiteness
of the dawn is visible. The desk is cluttered with beer cans and
thermos. Mathieu and other officers have their eyes fixed on the graph,
where the captain is marking other small crosses at the bottom of the
pyramid. The scene is motionless; their expressions are dull. Everyone
seems to be incapable of movement, overcome by the dull apathy that
always follows a sleepless night.
Until Mathieu breaks the stillness of the scene.
Good … Good work … Now we can all go
And moving together with the others, he continues.
The end of the strike doesn’t change
anything. The directives remain the same.
Give your men the usual shifts. We must
remain in the Casbah: twenty-four hours a
He turns and points to the graph.
We must cling to it, and work fast!
Then he turns to the officers and smiling, says in another tone of
Have any of you ever had a tapeworm?
The officers say “no” and laugh.
The tapeworm is a worm that can grow to
infinity. There are thousands of segments.
You can destroy all of them; but as long
as the head remains, it reproduces itself
immediately. It is the same thing with the
NLF. The head is the General Staff, four
persons. Until we are able to eliminate
them, we must always start again from the
While he is speaking, Mathieu takes his wallet from his back pocket,
opens it, takes out four photos.
I found these in the police archives.
They are old shots, but I made some
close-ups. Ramel … Si Mourad …
Kader … Ali la Pointe. We must print a
thousand copies and distribute them to
Meanwhile, the photos are passed around.
There are photos taken from identification cards, or blown up from some
group shots, figures somewhat blurred, faded, smiling, peaceful …
108 NLF LEADERS’ HIDING PLACE. INSIDE. DAY.
In the dim light, the four faces are barely illuminated. The shadows
tone down their expressions: Kader, Ali la Pointe, Ramel, Si Mourad.
They are crowded into the hiding place, sitting on the floor,
motionless, their eyes staring straight ahead, their breathing heavy.
From outside, noises, voices that are fading in the distance. Silence.
Then, a discreet knock, a remark in Arabic.
The four breathe deeply, look at each other, then smile a little.
Ali unslips the beam which, placed through an iron ring, is holding
shut the door of the hiding place. Using the soles of his feet, he
pushes against the square of wall: the light enters violently. It is
not electric light, but daylight.
Kader blinks his eyes to accustom them to the light, then goes out on
all fours; after him, Ramel, and then the others. They leave the hiding
place that Ali built in the wash-house on the terrace.
109 COMPLEX OF KADER’S HOUSE. OUTSIDE. DAY.
All of them have machine guns. Ramel is very tall and robust, about
thirty years old.
Si Mourad is slightly older than Ramel. His movements are slow and
precise; his glance expresses patience and authority. Djamila is
waiting for them.
You can come out. Thank God. There were so
many this time, about ten.
Ali recloses the hiding place.
What do you think? Did they come here on
purpose or by accident?
No. By accident. They asked some questions,
but they didn’t touch anyone.
Ali has come out of the wash-house. The sun is high, and helicopters
are seen passing one another in the sky. On some faraway terraces,
bivouacs of paras are visible. They are guarding the Casbah from above.
The rumble of motors and the voice of the loudspeaker are heard more
clearly as they near the house.
“Attention! Attention! Inhabitants of the
Casbah! The terrorist Ben Amin has been
executed this morning. Qrara Normendine
has been arrested. Boussalem Ali has been
arrested. Bel Kasel Maussa has been
arrested. Inhabitants of the Casbah! The
NFL has been defeated. Rebel against the
remaining terrorists who want to force
you to continue a bloody and futile
struggle. People of the Casbah, the
terrorist Ben Amin has been executed.
Help us to build a free and peaceful
Algeria. Inhabitants of the Casbah, the
NLF has been defeated. Rebel against the
remaining terrorists who want to force
you to continue a bloody and futile
struggle. Attention! Attention!
Inhabitants of the Casbah! The terrorist
Ben Amin has been executed this morning.
Qrara Normendine has been arrested.
Boussalem Ali has been arrested. Bel
Kasem Moussa has been arrested.
Inhabitants of the Casbah — the NLF has
been defeated …”
The voice fades away and is no longer heard. At the same time, a woman
has come up from the floor below, carrying a tray of cups and a teapot.
Ali looks at her quickly, but then watching her more closely, he sees
that she is crying. When she passes near him, he stops her, places his
hand kindly on her shoulder, and asks her in Arabic why she is crying.
DIALOGUE IN ARABIC BETWEEN ALI AND WOMAN.
The woman shakes her head, tries to smile, but says nothing. Then she
enters the wash-house silently and begins to serve the tea.
It’s better to split up, to increase our
chances. We must change hiding places, and
change them continually … In the
meantime, we must make new contacts,
replace our arrested brothers, reorganize
Yes, but we must also show them that we
Of course. As soon as possible.
No, immediately. The people are
demoralized. Leave this to me …
No. Not you, or any one of us. As long as
we are free, the NLF continues to exist
in the Casbah. If they manage to take us
too, there won’t be anything left … And
from nothing comes nothing …
But it’s also necessary to do something …
And we will do something, don’t worry. As
soon as we have reestablished contacts …
And our movements?
For this too we’ve got to change methods.
110 MUNICIPAL STADIUM. OUTSIDE. DAY. FEBRUARY 10, 1957.
The municipal stadium is crowded with people. There is a football game
between two European teams. It is almost the end of the first half.
From above to the right of the guest box, there is a very loud
Strips of flesh are hurled into the air. Thick, white smoke … There
are screams of terror. The people try to move away in haste. They are
shoving, pushing, bumping into one another … Then, calm returns. The
sirens of the ambulances are heard.
The stretcher, the dead carried away, scores of wounded.
111 PREFECT’S OFFICE. PRESS HALL. INSIDE. DAY. FEBRUARY 25.
Ben M’Hidi is standing in front of the journalists with handcuffs on
his wrists and ankles. He is without a tie. He is smiling a little, his
glance ironical. There are two paras behind him with machine guns
ready. The picture is still for an instant; Ben M’Hidi’s smile is
steady, so too his eyes, his entire face. Flashes, clicking of cameras.
Mr. Ben M’Hidi … Don’t you think it is
a bit cowardly to use your women’s baskets
and handbags to carry explosive devices
that kill so many innocent people?
Ben M’Hidi shrugs his shoulders in his usual manner and smiles a
And doesn’t it seem to you even more
cowardly to drop napalm bombs on unarmed
villages, so that there are a thousand
times more innocent victims? Of course,
if we had your airplanes it would be a lot
easier for us. Give us your bombers, and
you can have our baskets.
Mr. Ben M’Hidi … in your opinion, has
the NLF any chance to beat the French
In my opinion, the NLF has more chances
of beating the French army than the
French have to stop history.
The press hall in the prefect’s office is crowded with journalists of
every nationality. At the side and central aisles there are
photographers and cameramen.
Ben M’Hidi is opposite them, standing on a low wooden platform. Mathieu
is next to him, seated behind a small desk. Mathieu now gets up, and
signals to two paratroopers. Another journalist simultaneously has
asked another question:
Mr. Ben M’Hidi, Colonel Mathieu has said
that you have been arrested by accident,
practically by mistake. In fact, it seems
that the paratroopers were looking for
someone much less important than yourself.
Can you tell us why you were in that
apartment at rue Debussy last night?
The two paras have moved forward and they take Ben M’Hidi by the arms.
At the same time, he answers.
I can only tell you that it would have
been better if I had never been there …
That’s enough, gentlemen. It’s late, and
we all have a lot of work …
Ben M’Hidi glances at him ironically.
Is the show already over?
Yes, it’s over … before it becomes
The paras lead Ben M’Hidi away. He moves away with short steps, as much
as he can with the irons that are tightened around his ankles. Mathieu
has turned to the journalists and smiles again.
112 PREFECT’S OFFICE. PRESS HALL. INSIDE. DAY. MARCH 4.
Colonel Mathieu is standing. On his face is a brief smile, motionless,
his eyes attentive, but half-closed somewhat, due to the camera
Colonel Mathieu … the spokesman for the
residing minister, Mr. Gorlin, has stated
that “Larbi Ben M’Hidi committed suicide
in his own cell, hanging himself with
pieces of his shirt, that he had used to
make a rope, and then attached to the
bars of his cell window.” In a preceding
statement, the same spokesman had
specified that: “… due to the intention
already expressed by the prisoner Ben
M’Hidi to escape at the first opportunity,
it has been necessary to keep his hands
and feet bound continually.” In your
opinion, colonel, in such conditions, is
a man capable of tearing his shirt,
making a rope from it, and attaching it
to a bar of the window to hang himself?
You should address that question to the
minister’s spokesman. I’m not the one who
made those statements … On my part, I
will say that I had the opportunity to
admire the moral strength, intelligence,
and unwavering idealism demonstrated by
Ben M’Hidi. For these reasons, although
remembering the danger he represented, I
do not hesitate to pay homage to his
Colonel Mathieu … Much has been said
lately not only of the successes
obtained by the paratroopers, but also of
the methods that they have employed …
Can you tell us something about this?
The successes obtained are the results
of those methods. One presupposes the
other and vice versa.
Excuse me, colonel. I have the impression
that perhaps due to excessive prudence …
my colleagues continue to ask the same
allusive questions, to which you can only
respond in an allusive manner. I think it
would be better to call things by their
right names; if one means torture, then
one should call it torture.
I understand. What’s your question?
The questions have already been asked. I
would only like some precise answers,
that’s all …
Let’s try to be precise then. The word
“torture” does not appear in our orders.
We have always spoken of interrogation as
the only valid method in a police
operation directed against unknown
enemies. As for the NLF, they request
that their members, in the event of
capture, should maintain silence for
twenty-four hours, and then, they may
talk. Thus, the organization has already
had the time necessary to render useless
any information furnished … What type
of interrogation should we choose? …
the one the courts use for a crime of
homicide which drags on for months?
The law is often inconvenient, colonel …
And those who explode bombs in public
places, do they perhaps respect the law?
When you asked that question to Ben
M’Hidi, remember what he said? No,
gentlemen, believe me, it is a vicious
circle. And we could discuss the problem
for hours without reaching any
conclusions. Because the problem does
not lie here. The problem is: the NLF
wants us to leave Algeria and we want to
remain. Now, it seems to me that, despite
varying shades of opinion, you all agree
that we must remain. When the rebellion
first began, there were not even shades
of opinion. All the newspapers, even the
left-wing ones wanted the rebellion
suppressed. And we were sent here for
this very reason. And we are neither
madmen nor sadists, gentlemen. Those who
call us fascists today, forget the
contribution that many of us made to the
Resistance. Those who call us Nazis, do
not know that among us there are
survivors of Dachau and Buchenwald. We
are soldiers and our only duty is to
win. Therefore, to be precise, I would
now like to ask you a question: Should
France remain in Algeria? If you answer
“yes,” then you must accept all the
113 CASBAH HOUSES. TORTURE SEQUENCE. INSIDE. DAY.
Casbah, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms.
Sharp, white light; motionless faces, figures paused midway in
Women, children … glassy eyes …
Background motionless like in a landscape.
Algerians … wild eyes … animals being led to slaughter.
Paras, their every gesture measured exactly, perfection achieved.
An Algerian is lying down on the table, his arms and ankles bound with
An Algerian, in the form of a wheel, an iron bar in the curvature of
his knees, his ankles tied to his wrists.
Electrical wires wrenched from their outlets, a generator with crank,
extended pliers with their prongs open wide, the tops of the wires held
between two prongs, the pliers applied to a naked body, the most
sensitive parts: lips, tongue, ears, nipples, heart, sexual organs …
Faucets, tubing, buckets, funnels, a mouth forced open, held open, with
a wooden wedge, tubing in the mouth, rags scattered around, water, a
belly that is swelling . .. The torture is precise in every detail, and
every detail points to a technique that is taken apart and reassembled.
114 UPPER CASBAH ALLEY. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The chorus of the Koran school like ceaseless wailing, like a stubborn
will to survive that seems to be spreading through the Casbah.
Petit Omar looks up instinctively, his small face hardened and
taciturn, like that of an adult, then enters the school.
115 KORAN SCHOOL. INSIDE. DAY.
The children are sitting on the mats, motionless; only their lips are
moving. There is an oblique light, the teacher is in the shadow.
Petit Omar approaches the teacher who shakes his head in denial. Omar
116 CASBAH STREETS. PATROLS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The Casbah is patrolled by paratroopers; helmets, machine guns,
portable radios, police dogs …
Paratroopers are erecting loudspeakers at every street corner.
Paratroopers with brushes and buckets of paint are marking the doors of
the Casbah with large numbers. From time to time, machine-gun fire is
heard in the distance.
Algerians are standing against the wall, their hands up. There is a
dead man a few feet away, an Algerian youth. The paratroopers turn him
over and search him. A child with terrified eyes turns around a little.
A para transmits the dead man’s name into the portable radio.
117 CASBAH. OTHER STREETS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
A car radio receives and transmits the same name; and then the name is
repeated by the loudspeakers scattered throughout the Casbah.
“Inhabitants of the Casbah! The rebellion
gets weaker every day. The terrorist Ben
Amin has been executed. Kasem Moussa has
been arrested. He was commander of the 2nd
Sector NLF. Inhabitants of the Casbah! The
terrorists are not your true brothers.
Leave them to their fate. Rely on the
protection of the French army. Denounce
the terrorists and agitators. Cooperate
with us to reestablish peace and
prosperity in Algeria …”
118 FOUR WOMEN. STREET. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Four women, their faces veiled, meet a patrol of paras in a small
Two of the paras stop the last woman, and lift her dress, uncovering
her feet and ankles — those of a man. The tear away her veil.
The man is Ali. At the same time, there is …
The two paras fall to the ground. Ali grasps his weapon, visible
through the opening of his cloak. The other paras fling themselves to
The other three women flee, while Ali continues to shoot, then runs
The four flee through the narrow streets and alleys, climb a stairway,
and leap from one terrace to another. Behind them, shouts, whistles,
and machine-gun fire are heard. And moving nearer …
BARKING OF DOGS.
119 COURTYARD WITH WELL. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The four enter a courtyard. Ali’s three companions have also lifted
their veils. They are Kader, Mourad, and Ramel.
A woman rushes to shut the door while a man leads the four toward an
opening hidden by some boxes.
The others who are in the courtyard, women and children, are also busy
helping, silently, hurriedly, in a tense atmosphere of solidarity with
the four fugitives.
Very near are heard …
BARKING OF DOGS AND PARAS’ HURRIED FOOTSTEPS.
A woman runs toward the door and throws some large handfuls of pepper
under the cracks.
120 STREET COURTYARD WITH WELL. OUTSIDE. DAY.
The group of pursuers — paras who are holding police dogs by leashes
— slow down in front of the door.
The animals sniff the ground, then move on together with the paras.
121 ARAB BATH. INSIDE. DAY.
Petit Omar enters the large steamy room. He moves near the manager and
hands him an envelope. The manager slips it quickly under the counter.
“To all NLF militants! Reorganize! Replace
your fallen and arrested brothers. Make
new contacts! This is a grave moment.
Resist brothers! The General Staff leaves
you free to take any and all necessary
122 CASBAH HOUSE. INSIDE. DAY.
All the inhabitants of a house. The men are in a row on the balcony of
the first floor, their hands crossed behind their heads, their backs to
the wall, while paras guard them with pointed machine guns.
Two paratroopers lead an Algerian girl forward: she seems to be
exhausted, and can barely walk, her eyes half-closed.
They stop in front of the first man and ask her:
Is this one?
“Our hearts are breaking before such
outrages, our houses invaded, our
families massacred. Brothers, rebel!
Bring terror to the European city!”
123 ALGERIAN STREETS. OUTSIDE. EVENING.
The European city, evening, houses are being lit. People have finished
working. They are going to the bars, cinemas, or for walks, or crowding
the bus stops …
The wail of a siren at full blast, an ambulance, driven at frightening
The people move aside, jump to the sidewalks. The cars squeeze to the
The ambulance door is opened, a corpse is thrown out, falls, rolls into
The people rush to it. It is a hospital attendant’s in white uniform
with a knife stuck in his throat.
The sound of the siren decreases in intensity; the ambulance is by now
124 AMBULANCE. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. EVENING.
In the driver’s cab, there are two Algerian boys. Their hair is curly,
their shirts old and torn. They are sweating; their eyes wide open,
The one who is driving barely reaches the height of the steering wheel.
He clutches it desperately. The other has a machine gun. He makes a
remark in Arabic shouting to be heard above the siren.
The driver takes a hand off the steering wheel, places it on the
dashboard, and tries all the switches until he finds the one for the
headlights. The high beams.
The other, meanwhile, is now on his knees on the seat. He is leaning
out the open window to his waist, and he begins to shoot.
125 ROUTE OF AMBULANCE. OUTSIDE. EVENING.
The pictures succeed one another in a dizzy rhythm; surprise, terror,
126 AMBULANCE. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. EVENING.
There is no more ammunition. The machine gun is thrown in the back of
the ambulance. The siren is still at full blast. The auto races ahead
at terrifying speed. The two boys don’t know any more what to do, where
to go, and the one who is driving has his eyes almost closed, as if he
They reach a square.
The other points ahead to the left.
127 BUS SHELTER. OUTSIDE. EVENING.
The people are crowded in a bus shelter. The one who is driving doesn’t
understand or doesn’t want to.
The other shouts to him again and again, the same phrase, then flings
himself on the steering wheel, and turns it in that direction.
The bus shelter is nearer and nearer.
The people are paralyzed. They have no time to move. They are run down,
rammed into. The ambulance crashes into a pillar.
On the ground, all about, the bodies of dead and wounded. The boys’
bodies remain motionless, their foreheads resting on the smashed
But the sound of the siren does not stop, and is heard, mournful and
full of anguish.
128 RAMEL’S HOUSE. IMPASSE ST. VINCENT DE PAUL.
OUTSIDE/INSIDE. DAY. AUGUST 26.
Impasse St. Vincent-de-Paul, noon. There are helicopters in the sky,
and paras fill the alley.
Their faces are pale and tense, their eyes wide open, their hands
clutch their machine guns. There is a strange silence. Then a movement
at the back of the alley, a voice, a brief greeting. Mathieu has
arrived and he is saying to an officer:
Now is not the time for heroes. Give me
Mathieu takes the megaphone in his hands and approaches an open door.
Through the doorway the inner courtyard of the house is visible where
the corpses of four paras are strewn about.
Ramel and Si Mourad are on the first-floor balcony, lying in wait
behind the railings, so they are able to watch the door, courtyard, and
the stairway that leads from the balcony to the terrace.
On the terrace there are other paras who are facing the balcony. From
time to time they release a burst of machine gun fire.
The voice of Mathieu is heard over the loudspeaker.
Ramel … Si Mourad … use your heads.
If you go on like this, I wouldn’t want to
be in your place when you are captured …
Because you will be captured in the end,
and you know it too. Surrender! If you do
it immediately, I promise that you will
not be harmed and you will have a fair
trial. Can you hear me?
Ramel and Si Mourad look at each other.
Who is speaking?
Mathieu. Colonel Mathieu.
We don’t trust you, colonel. Come
forward, show yourself.
A moment of silence.
I don’t trust you either. First stand up
so I can see you, and keep your hands
still and well in sight.
Mourad hesitates an instant, glances at Ramel, then:
Okay. But we want your promise for a fair
trial in writing. Give us a written
statement, Mathieu, and then we’ll
How can I give you this statement?
We’ll lower a basket from the window …
Okay, I’ll make the statement in
Mourad shows his companion the two large time-bombs that are on the
floor in front of him. He takes one, begins to prepare it, and
regulates the mechanism.
At the same time, he tells Ramel in Arabic to go find the basket.
Ramel crawls past the doors which are all closed, and asks for a basket.
A door opens and an old woman appears. She hands him a basket with its
cord rolled up.
(without turning around)
A newspaper too, or a piece of paper …
Ramel brings him the basket and newspaper. Mourad has loaded the time-
bomb mechanism, and the tic-toc sound is sharp and clear.
Now he has to move the second hand. Mourad’s hands do not tremble, his
glance is attentive, concentrating. Ramel watches him without saying a
word; his fear is obvious.
Without moving, his eyes glued to the bomb dial:
Are you ready, colonel?
Yes … But let me first see you.
Mourad moves one of the clock hands to precede the other one by a
minute. Immediately afterward he places the flat and rectangular bomb
in the bottom of the basket.
The basket seems to be empty. The piece of newspaper protects its
bottom. Mourad tells Ramel to get up, and he too gets up. Their machine
guns are lying on the ground. Meanwhile, Mourad has begun to count to
himself silently, his lips moving: one, two, three, four …
From the terrace, the paras can see Ramel and Mourad standing up not
very far away, their empty hands resting near the basket on the
A para shouts:
We see them. You can come.
Mourad begins to lower the basket very slowly.
60, 59, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53 …
Mathieu enters the courtyard together with an officer and other paras.
He looks up toward the balcony, smiles, and shows them a folded piece
Here it is … you know that when I give
my word, I keep it …
Mourad does not answer, but looks at Mathieu as if to calculate the
distance and time, and slows down even more the basket’s descent.
Mathieu moves forward a few steps, as if to go for the basket that is
hanging on the other side of the courtyard, but suddenly he seems
perplexed for a second, and then changes his mind. He turns to the
nearest para, and gives him the note.
You go …
Mourad’s face has remained motionless. In his expression there is a
shade of disappointment. He sees Mathieu retrace his steps toward the
door, and is now surrounded by a group of paratroopers …
25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19 …
The basket has stopped moving two yards from the ground. In order to
reach it, the para has to step over the corpses of his dead companions,
his face hardens, he reaches the basket, and extending his arm, he
throws in the note. The basket does not move; the para looks up.
Hurry up, black bastard!
Mourad smiles at him, and mumbles something in Arabic, a phrase that he
doesn’t manage to finish, for now is heard — the explosion.
129 RUE CATON 4. FATHIA’S HOUSE. INSIDE. NIGHT. SEPTEMBER 2.
Rue Caton number four. It is 11 p.m. A large, badly lit room is filled
with paratroopers and one of them is now being carried away on a
stretcher. Another three or four wounded are seated on the opposite
side of the room and are waiting their turn to be carried away.
Two paras are by the door. They look out from time to time, and are
attentive, ready, with machine guns clutched by their sides.
On the other side of the room opposite the door, the Algerians who live
in the house are standing against the wall. Mathieu is in front of
them, and he is asking a group of women:
Which one of you is Fathia?
A woman about forty years old raises her eyes toward him.
Is it you?
The woman nods yes.
Go up the stairs, and tell Kader that if
they don’t surrender, we’ll blow up
everything … Do you understand?
The woman again nods yes, and without waiting for more words, she moves
toward the door, taciturn, silent. Mathieu follows her, he pushes past
Try to convince him, if you care about
your house … Wait a minute … Do you
want to get killed?
He leans out the door and says loudly:
Kader, look. Fathia is coming … I
wouldn’t shoot …
Then he steps aside and lets the woman pass.
Go on …
Outside the door, there is a small landing, then a steep stairway, and
at the top, a corridor. Fathia climbs the stairs that are cluttered
with empty magazines, with cartridge boxes. The walls are chipped from
the shooting. The ceiling is parallel to the stairway at the same
inclination, for part of its distance. But for the last few yards, it
straightens out and lowers to become horizontal.
The floor of the hiding place is open. Inside are Zohra and Kader.
Fathia repeats to them in Arabic what Mathieu has said to her.
Kader listens to her then answers, he too in Arabic. Then he smiles.
Okay … You can tell the colonel to blow
up whatever he likes. Go on, now.
Fathia goes down the stairs, and reenters the room.
He said that you can blow up whatever
you like …
She, then, rejoins the other women.
Mathieu seems to be tired, he has lost weight, he is nervous. He turns
to his men, and slowly as he gives the orders, the paras begin to move.
Return to where the others are. Prepare
the plastic. It should be placed on the
ceiling of the stairway under the hiding
place … a long fuse rolled up … Take
cover … keep shooting while you are
working. Quickly! Clear the house …
Bring them outside, then check the rooms
again … Hurry up!
Kader gives Zohra a box of matches. She goes to the back of the hiding
place where there is a bundle of papers. She lights them, then returns
near to Kader who is inspecting the magazine of his machine gun.
There are only two shots left. The other empty magazines are scattered
around. Kader turns to Zohra, and starts to speak, but suddenly his
words are blurred by the sound of shots.
Kader and Zohra have to step back a little, because the shells are
flashing at the edge of the opening.
The shooting stops. From the stairway, one end of a long fuse is
thrown into the corridor. The other end is inserted into a plastic
charge fastened to the ceiling of the stairway, under the hiding place.
Kader and Zohra can see two or three yards in front of them, below,
into the corridor, where the end of the fuse is glowing and burning.
Kader too has lost weight, his beard is long. He looks at the fuse,
then at Zohra. A second passes in silence. Now Zohra too looks at him,
and Kader says calmly in his usual voice:
It doesn’t do any good to die like this …
it doesn’t help anybody …
He leans out from the hiding place.
Mathieu! If you give your word that you
won’t touch any of the other people in
the house, we’ll come out.
130 MILITARY CAR. INSIDE. NIGHT.
Inside a military automobile.
In the back seat, Mathieu is sitting next to Kader who is handcuffed.
Zohra is in the front seat, between the driver and a para who has in
his hand a large regulation pistol. The interior is lighted by the
headlights of a jeep which is following directly behind the auto a few
yards. Silence. Mathieu looks hastily at Kader, who is staring straight
in front of him, and appears to be sullen and downcast.
Then Mathieu speaks in a pleasant tone, as if in friendly conversation.
If you had let me blow you up, you would
have disappointed me …
Kader turns to him, and replies, trying to maintain his own voice at
the same level of indifference:
For many months, I’ve had your photo on
my desk together with a dozen or so
reports on you … And naturally, I am
under the illusion that I know you
somewhat. You never seemed the type,
Kader, inclined to performing useless
Kader doesn’t answer right away, then speaks slowly as if expressing
the results of his doubts, a new point of view …
You seem to be very satisfied to have
taken me alive …
Of course I am.
That proves that I was wrong. Evidently I
credited you with an advantage greater
than I should have.
No. Let’s just say that you’ve given me
the satisfaction to have guessed
correctly. But from the technical point
of view, it isn’t possible to speak of
advantages. By now the game is over. The
NLF has been defeated.
Zohra has turned around suddenly. She is crying and speaks hastily in
Arabic, violently, harshly.
Mathieu doesn’t understand, and turns to Kader to ask him politely,
although with a bit of irony:
What is she saying?
She says that Ali is still in the Casbah.
131 CROWDED BEACH. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Ali la Pointe’s glance is sullen, heavy, motionless. He moves his head
slowly in such a way so that his glance also moves in a semicircle.
White beach, fine sand, transparent sea, bodies stretched out in the
sun, golden skin of girls; girls in bikinis, sensual, smiling, young
men with narrow hips, with muscles well cared for, cheerful youth,
naturally happy, enviable. The children are building sand castles near
the water’s edge; the beach is shaped like a half-moon with rocky reefs
at both ends …
A September Sunday, warm and calm. Ali is leaning on the wall. He is
wearing a white wool cloak. Only his eyes are visible … the eyes of a
hungry tiger perched above a path, on the lookout for innocent prey.
Eyes that now gleam, cruel eyes, tension dilating the pupils … Then
again the calm, a gloomy calm, a gratifying tension. The place is
right, and the victims couldn’t be better ones.
Ali moves, leaves the wall, crosses the street to a large city
sanitation truck, one of those metallic trucks with no visible
A young Algerian is at the steering wheel, a street cleaner. He is
leaning his thin face on the wheel. His hands are dirty, by now
unwashable from years of work.
Ali has climbed into the cab. The truck is in motion and leaves.
132 SANITATION TRUCK. INSIDE. DAY.
The name of the street cleaner is Sadek. He seems frightened. He looks
around, hesitates before speaking.
Then the beach is okay, Ali.
Silence. Sadek looks at him again, waiting, but Ali does not respond.
Ali looks straight ahead at the street bathed in sunlight, the tar that
seems to be liquid, the villas that surround Algiers, the lemon trees,
the oleanders … Then he speaks, but without turning to Sadek. He
speaks in a whisper, his eyes continually staring straight ahead.
We need two more, the biggest ones.
And the others?
The others … let’s wait and see.
Sadek remains silent for a while.
I’ve looked, Ali, even where I work.
Nothing. The ones who have not been
arrested have left Algiers and gone into
the mountains … And the others don’t
want to hear any more about it …
they’re afraid …
Ali doesn’t answer him. Silence.
Can’t you go any faster?
Yes, sure … here.
Sadek puts the truck in third gear, accelerates the motor, then shifts
back again into fourth gear. The truck increases its speed. The road is
straight, the outskirts of Algiers are visible.
If we don’t find any others … should we
call it off?
Ali turns suddenly to look at him but says nothing. Sadek can feel
those eyes on him, and tries to justify himself.
We can’t plant all of them by
Ali speaks to him in a dry and indifferent voice.
You don’t have to plant anything. You
only have to carry them, that’s all.
133 RUE DES ABDERAMES. ALI’S HOUSE. OUTSIDE/INSIDE. NIGHT.
Night. At number three rue des Abderames, on the first-floor balcony,
the stove fires are glowing. The women are cooking outside on their
stoves built from tin containers. They are cooking in front of the
doors of their homes. The doorways are lit up.
Ali passes along the balcony, passes by Mahmoud and his wife who are
speaking in whispers by themselves and leaning on the railing. It is a
warm and starry night. Mahmoud says some more words to his wife, still
speaking in whispers, tenderly. Then he follows Ali who has stopped in
front of the door.
134 ALI’S ROOM. INSIDE. NIGHT.
In the room, there is Petit Omar who is cutting out some pictures from
a comic book.
As soon as he sees Ali at the door, he stops, closes his book, puts the
scissors in his pocket. He seems to be embarrassed at being caught in
his childish game.
In the center of the room, there is a dividing curtain, pulled halfway
to the side. On the other side, Hassiba is typing. Behind Hassiba, next
to the bed, the hiding place is open. Ali enters. He seems tired,
sweating. He removes his cloak, tosses it on the chair, and puts his
machine gun on the table.
(turning to Petit Omar)
C’mon, hurry. Go to sleep. Tomorrow we
four have a lot of work to do: Mahmoud,
Hassiba, you and I.
Mahmoud has remained motionless at the door. Hassiba has stopped typing
and approaches them. Omar says nothing, but there is a satisfied look
in his eyes. He can’t help stretching out his hand to touch the machine
Ali sits down, at the table, moves the machine gun away from Omar, and
continues to speak, still talking to Omar.
Because we can’t find anyone else, Sadek
will bring us there in the truck. You get
out first and plant the bomb where I tell
you … then return here quickly. But be
careful that no one is following you. Then
Hassiba will get out, and after her,
Mahmoud. Then I will plant the ones that
are left. They’ll know that we’re still
strong … you can be sure of that.
135 ALI’S ROOM. INSIDE. DAWN. OCTOBER 7, 1957.
The room is badly lit by a small lamp which is on the other side of the
curtain. There is a mattress on the table and Petit Omar is lying on
Ali is lying on a mattress on the ground, fully dressed, with his
machine gun by his side. His eyes are open, and he is listening to the
far-away sound of a motor. He looks at his watch, gets up, and goes to
open the door. Outside there is the first gray light of dawn. The sound
is heard more clearly and seems to be moving nearer.
Ali returns to Petit Omar, stays a minute looking at him, then shakes
him roughly. The child gets up immediately. He is trembling, as if he
had slept with taut nerves, and jumps down quickly from the table. His
eyes are open, but he is still sleepy.
Ali smiles for a moment, and runs his fingers through Omar’s hair.
Omar, Omar. C’mon, wake up. Hurry, little
one. Today you’re going to see fireworks.
The child also smiles and his face relaxes, then brightens up. At the
same time, he extends his hand and pats Ali’s side. Mahmoud enters the
room from the balcony. He is carrying a tray with four cups of coffee.
It’s almost time, isn’t it?
Then Ali turns to the curtain and calls:
Ali sits down and puts on a pair of sneakers. Petit Omar has finished
The curtain is drawn, Hassiba appears, already dressed.
I heard the sound of a truck before …
Me too. But I don’t think it was Sadek.
Otherwise he’d be here by now.
Hassiba is dressed in European clothes, a skirt and blouse. She nears
the table and takes a cup of coffee.
How is your wife now?
Mahmoud’s face is expressionless. He shakes his head.
Ali has finished putting on his shoes. He takes a cup of coffee. In the
same moment, outside the door is heard:
The four are startled.
Simultaneously, all of them move toward the hiding place.
Mahmoud’s wife appears at the door. Her face is despairing, but she
moves carefully, quickly, precisely. She closes the door. She puts the
coffee cups back on the tray, and hides everything in the sink.
She goes to the other side of the curtain. Ali is entering the hiding
place. The other three are already inside. Ali pushes the movable piece
of wall toward him, and the woman helps him.
Then, she takes a can from the night table; it is full of plaster mixed
with coal dust. The woman spreads the paste in the joints between the
bricks of the wall and the closure of the hiding place. At the same
time, shouting, shots, and the footsteps of paras are heard.
As soon as she has finished, the woman slips into bed under the sheets.
The paratroopers break into the room shouting, and make the woman get
up. They drag her outside on the balcony.
136 ABDERAMES COURTYARD. OUTSIDE. DAWN.
They drag Mahmoud’s wife down from the balcony to the center of the
courtyard, where now all the inhabitants of the building are standing
— men, women, children — all of them with their hands to the wall, in
full sight of the paras who are guarding them.
Sadek’s head is lowered. He passes along the balcony between Marc and
the captain. He stops in front of the door.
The Algerian nods yes. They enter.
137 ALI’S ROOM. INSIDE. DAWN.
Sadek points toward the curtain. The captain signals him to go there.
The Algerian points to a spot in the brick baseboard.
The captain examines it and with his thumb, he tests the fresh plaster.
He bends down and leans his ear to the wall. He smiles as he listens to
It is the same breathing that soon after Mathieu hears, bent in the
same position as the captain. The colonel gets up and looks around him.
Four paras are ready with their machine guns aimed at the hiding place.
Others are arranging plastic charges along the wall, all of them
connected to a single fuse.
In a corner, Sadek, wearing his cap and army camouflage fatigues, is
sitting on a chair.
He is watching the scene with his eyes wide open. He is trembling. His
body is slouched forward. He seems to be lifeless, without nerves. If
it weren’t for his face, he would seem to be a heap of rags.
(to the captain)
He hasn’t answered?
No, sir. Total silence.
I thought so. It was obvious.
Mathieu bends down again and leans his ear against the bricks. He gets
up again. He remains a minute in this position, lost in thought.
(loudly and markedly)
Ali … Ali la Pointe … You’re going to
be blown up. Let the others come out, at
least the child. We’ll let him off with
reformatory school … Why do you want to
make him die?
Mathieu stops, and shakes his head. He turns to the captain:
Let’s go …
A paratrooper is unrolling a large bundle of fuse.
Bring it down there, till it reaches
Yes, sir …
Mathieu has stopped in front of Sadek. He looks at him.
Is this one still here? … Take him away.
Two paratroopers grab the street cleaner by the armpits and almost
lifting him completely, they lead him away. Mathieu is about to go out,
then turns and takes the megaphone from the captain’s hands, and places
it to his mouth.
Ali! Ali la Pointe! I am giving you
another thirty seconds. What do you hope
to gain? You’ve lost anyway. Thirty
seconds, Ali, starting now.
138 ALI’S HIDING PLACE. INSIDE. DAWN.
Ali la Pointe’s eyes are staring at the square piece of wall that seals
the hiding place. His glance is taciturn, gloomy. The others are
watching Ali. Their lips are half-open, their breasts rise and fall in
(in deep, resigned voice)
Who wants to leave?
Petit Omar presses against Ali’s arm; he looks like a son with his
Mahmoud takes his head in his hands and squeezes it.
What are you going to do?
I don’t deal with them.
139 ALI’S ROOM. INSIDE. DAWN.
Mathieu checks his watch; thirty seconds have passed. He moves to go
out. The four paras with machine guns are still in the room.
(to another paratrooper)
You stay here by the door to signal the
others. When I call you, all of you come
140 RUE DES ABDERAMES. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
The sun has risen to the height of the terraces.
The terraces are swarming with people.
The alley is empty and only the fuse is visible; it reaches to a small
clearing full of paratroopers. Two more colonels and a general have
There is a paratrooper with an “Arriflex” ready to film the explosion.
The atmosphere is that of a show. Two paratroopers are connecting the
ends of the fuse to the electric contact.
On the terraces, there are Algerian women, children, and old people.
Their eyes are motionless; someone is praying. There is an atmosphere
There is also the wife of Mahmoud; her eyes seem blank.
Five paras come out of the house quickly, and pass along the alley
toward the clearing.
The captain signals, and the para begins to lower the contact switch
The eyes of all are motionless. The camera is ready. But the explosion
does not occur.
The paratrooper swears; he examines the wires.
Stand back! Ready, Pierre?
Pierre responds by mumbling something, and at the same time his hands
are moving frenziedly around the wires.
141 ALI’S HIDING PLACE. INSIDE. MORNING.
Ali la Pointe bends over Petit Omar as if to cover him. Hassiba has
stopped breathing, her eyes wide open; Mahmoud is crying …
A single image, a second and now:
142 RUE DES ABDERAMES. OUTSIDE. MORNING.
The house collapses in a white cloud, as if its foundations had
suddenly been removed.
Mathieu and the other officers move away. Behind them the echo of the
explosion continues to resound, then shouts, orders, and isolated
Mathieu’s face is weary but his expression is relieved. He is smiling.
And so the tapeworm no longer has a head.
Are you satisfied, Mathieu? In Algiers
everything should be over.
Yes, I believe there won’t be any more
talk of the NLF for some time.
Let’s hope forever.
Another colonel intervenes:
At heart they are good people. We’ve had
good relations with them for a hundred and
thirty years … I don’t see why we
shouldn’t continue that way.
Yes, but Algiers is not the only city in
Bah, for that matter, Algeria isn’t the
only country in the world …
Why, yes, of course … But for the
moment, let’s be satisfied with Algiers!
In the mountains our work is always
Gradually the officers move away down the slanting street toward their
jeeps, and their remarks fade away and are lost.
143 CASBAH STREETS. DEMONSTRATIONS. OUTSIDE. DAY. DECEMBER 1960.
Like the cries of birds, of thousands of wild birds, the ju-jus invade
and shake the black sky.
And below, in the Casbah the white cloaks of the Algerians are like
streams, floods; through the alleys, down the stairways, through the
streets and the squares, they flow toward the European city.
144 PRESS HALL. PREFECT’S OFFICE. INSIDE. DAY.
In the press hall, the journalists are taking the telephones by force,
shouting at the top of their voices. An English journalist:
No one knows what could have been the
pretext. The fact is that they seem to be
unleashed without warning … I telephoned
Lausanne … yes, Lausanne. I spoke with
an NLF leader in exile. They don’t know
145 ALGIERS STREETS. DEMONSTRATION. OUTSIDE. DAY/NIGHT.
In front, the adolescents, very young boys and girls, their mouths wide
open, their eyes burning, laughing, their arms stretched above them,
raised and lowered to mark the rhythm.
The paratroopers jump down from the trucks, and rush forward.
The policemen rush forward, soldiers, zouaves, the CRS …
Deployed in cordons, in a wedge, in turtle-like formations, in order to
divide, to scatter, to hold back …
But the demonstrators will not move back, or divide. They continue to
press forward, pushing against the troops, face to face.
The Europeans are closing their doors, lowering shutters. They too, the
younger ones, the more decisive, are grouping together, trying to
confront the Algerians. They are less numerous, but armed …
The first revolver shots resound in the streets, from the windows. Some
Algerians fall, but the others continue to advance. They are running
[Long live the partisans!]
The jeeps, the trucks, the sirens, the tear-gas bombs, machine gun
And then the tanks. The turrets move slowly in a semi-circle. The
machine gunner fires the first burst at point-blank.
Meanwhile the sun has set, and shadows of night are visible.
Today the situation is tenser. In spite
of pressure from the more intolerant
colonialist group it seems that the
Government has given strict orders not
to use arms except in emergency
situations. But this afternoon there were
attempts to enter the European city by
force: as a result, the first casualties
… Now calm has returned, although from
the Casbah continue to be heard those
cries … incoherent, rhythmic,
nightmarish cries …
And then, from time to time, in the by now dark night, the shrill and
146 ALGERIAN STREETS. FLAGS. OUTSIDE. DAY.
Those cries continued until the following day.
The following day is sunny; the scene begins again like the day
before. Only that …
This morning for the first time, the
people appeared with their flags — green
and white with half moon and star.
Thousands of flags. They must have sewn
them overnight. Flags so to speak. Many
are strips of sheets, shirts, ribbons,
rags … but anyway they are flags.
Thousands of flags. All are carrying flags, tied to poles or sticks, or
waving in their hands like handkerchiefs. Waving in the sullen faces of
the paratroopers, on the black helmets of the soldiers.
“Another two years had to pass and
infinite losses on both sides; and then
July 2, 1962 independence was obtained —
the Algerian Nation was born.”
THE END[amazonjs asin=”B001O4J9TY” locale=”JP” title=”アルジェの戦い DVD”]