Cannes Review: Rachid Bouchareb's Powerful 'Outside the Law'
by Alex Billington
May 22, 2010
Unless you're from France or Algeria, you probably don't know much about the backstory behind this. But at Cannes this year, Rachid Bouchareb's Outside the Law, or Hors la Loi in French, was potentially the most controversial films that played here. There were even French Gendarmerie troops in full riot gear protecting the Palais on the day it premiered because of potential riots. The reason for the controversy comes a bit from supposed inaccuracies in the film and simply from the subject matter it deals with. The story is about three Algerian brothers who, following the Sétif massacre in 1945 after WWII, become freedom fighters in France.
In brief, Algeria was ruled by France throughout WWII, but the Algerian people wanted independence. On the day of Germany's surrender, a protest in the city of Sétif was attacked by the French Gendarmerie and many Algerians were killed. These three brothers survived and, after being reunited years later, moved to France and decided to start fighting for their independence by killing certain people opposed to their cause and eventually police officers as well. Algeria did gain independence in 1962, but Outside the Law focuses specifically on the story of these brothers' and their attempts to fight for their cause as long as they could.
Outside the Law feels like a very powerful, Untouchables-like epic, spanning numerous years and showing the full story from the massacre up until 1962 when they gained independence. Certain parts of the massive story felt cut short, mostly due to time and progression, even though I wanted to see more. But what we are still shown was fantastic. Writer/director Rachid Bouchareb couldn't have found a more unique, endearing, and fascinating story to tell about these brothers, because each has a very unique background and each plays a vital role. One of them, Saïd (played outstandingly by Jamel Debbouze), doesn't even want to be a part of the resistance and tries to make a living as a boxing manager, but obviously must become involved anyway.
Overall, Outside the Law isn't the kind of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring film that's on par with Untouchables or The Godfather, but it is a solid, impressively made, and powerful look at a very personal story about one Algerian family fighting for their independence. I enjoyed every last minute of it and would've even liked to see more, but I'm still completely satisfied with the the film that Rachid Bouchareb put together, even if it's historically inaccurate in places. The performances in particular were incredible and as a piece of French-Algerian cinema, it's a great film, worth checking out if you want to learn more about this incredible story.
Reader Feedback - 7 Comments
Sounds pretty good. Why would there be a riot? The audience wasn't around during this time, unless some really older people were there...
Xerxex on May 22, 2010
@1 People riot for all sort of reason, from the just and historic to NBA championships. Nearly all of the time the ones who start riots have very little to do with the cause or controversy, and are just some dumbasses looking to break things. With the exception of fight announcers trying to devalue the local real estate. To be honest, I would have loved to see a bunch of senior citizens take on a fully-equipped riot platoon. And if said group of padded police platoon is French I put $5.00 US on the old farts. Batteries not included.
Akirakorn on May 22, 2010
The film as a whole is historical accurate. The France Ambassador in Algeria for the fisrt time this year has made an open apology to the Algerian people for the " unforgivable massacre of Setif, Guelma and Khenchela". Even the French historians angered the French government by stating that the "Hors la loi" film is as a whole historical accurate event. Algeria has always asked regarding the massacre of 1945 and other troubling events to have both Algerian and French historians sitting together and debating it on TV, but France has always ignore it. Why after 65 years France still don't want to show the archives? what they hiding? Why is it still taboo in France to talk about the events of Algeria war?
Simon Cousin on May 23, 2010
Looks decent, will watch.
Crapola on May 23, 2010
@2: the french police is very efficient in riot control, they have a long habit and a lot of practice ... of course it's accurate but the french have a problem with their history, and espacially about Algeria ... looks good
bob on May 25, 2010
There is no perversion in this movie. Far right stupid French must apologize and compensate for Algerian.
fgdgh on Nov 18, 2010
Outside the Law looks fantastic. I can't wait to see it. There are a lot of great films coming out of Africa right now; the film Kinyarwanda just won a top award at Sundance. Not only that, but I just saw White Wedding, South Africa's submission to the Oscars of a year ago. It was hysterical. Though it's incredibly upbeat, it still deals with difficult issues like racial tension. You should definitely watch the trailer, it's on the film's site: http://www.whiteweddingmovie.com
Luke on Feb 2, 2011
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