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EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

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Five-time German Crime Fiction Award winner Oliver Bottini adapted his crime thriller “Ein Paar Tage Licht” with screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri and Spiral director Frederic Jardin for the series Algiers Confidential—a fast-paced drama based on Algeria’s independence.

The plot revolves around competing interests, corruption and terrorists —notably — Djamel, Sadek and their associates who plan to hijack a convoy of assault rifles (MRG-45s) en route from the manufacturer, Meininger Rau, in Magdeburg, Germany to Algeria.

Djamel and Sadek plan to overthrow President Boutefika’s repressive government for a more democratic one. They kidnap Peter Richter, an engineer, and Toni Schumacher, his bodyguard to elicit the necessary information about the convoy and to get a $50 million ransom. As the drama unfolds over a matter of days, a German Embassy security officer, Ralf Eley, is  called to investigate. His girlfriend, Amel, helps him find the leads even though Colonel Toumi – the inside man – hampers their investigation and threatens their lives. Coincidentally, Amel is the niece of General Soudani, the original buyer of the rifles whom the terrorists steal from.

This series not only involves political corruption and financial malfeasance at the highest levels of government and the military-industrial complex but also portrays the CIA’s underplayed, but no less significant role in keeping the status quo with its non-democratic allies hobbled by special interests in the US and abroad.

President Boutefika is modeled on Ahmed Ben Bella whose rise to power after Algeria’s War of Independence (1962) replaced colonial oppression with the FLN’s (National Liberation Front) slogan: “la valise ou le cercueil” (a suitcase or a coffin). As a result, 900,000 Pieds-Noirs* (Europeans born on Algerian soil, Catholic and white along with over 100,000 Sephardic [Iberia] and Maghrebi [North African Jews] Jews) departed for Europe leaving homes and businesses behind thereby de-stabilizing Algeria’s economy.

Elected Premier and later President in a one-party state with only the FLN, Ahmed Ben Bella (1916-2012), socialist revolutionary and Arab nationalist, claimed a neutral course in world politics but contradicted himself in his aid requests from both President Kennedy and Fidel Castro while backing Castro’s demands of US withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay. In June 1965, he was deposed by Houari Boumedienne and lived under house arrest for 14 years; he was freed in 1980.

For Algerians, the legacy of the War of Independence was the legitimate and sanctified use of unrestricted violence in achieving a justified goal. The FLN’s methods of militarized politics, use of the Islamic rallying cry and the exaltation of jihad helped create a secular state in 1962. This inverted blowback of repression helped pave the way for Islamic radicalism which co-opted this strategy in order to overthrow the FLN in the 1990s.

This limited series could have been inspired by Albert Camus’ (1913-1960) 1951 essay, “L’Homme Revolte.” The 1957 Nobel-Prize winning author, journalist and philosopher of the “absurd,” is a Pied-Noir born in Oran, Algeria. “L’Homme Revolte” traces everyman’s inborn impulse to rebel symbolized by the terrorists’ rejection of normative justice exemplified by General Soudani’s illegitimate government of murder and repression which undermines the value of human life based on solidarity, freedom and hope amidst life’s “absurd” nature and the world’s meaninglessness. Camus’ condemnation and denunciation of all ideological ‘isms’ is valid and necessary in repudiating the ultimate destruction of freedom and the enslavement of the individual.

Algeria’s War of Independence (1954-1962) was Gillo Pontecorvo’s (1919-2006) source material for his 1966 film, “La battaglia di Algeri” (The Battle of Algiers) which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. This docudrama traces the guerilla warfare against the French government by the FLN during the eponymous battle in Algeria’s capital. The black and white newsreel style reporting/editing and the use of non-professional actors added historical authenticity especially visible in the scenes focusing on guerilla fighter, Ali La Pointe from 1954-1957. The French government used terror, oppression and various methods of torture (electroshock, water boarding, sleep deprivation, etc.) to contain the FLN guerillas who eventually gained independence from France. This conflict also resulted in civil war among various Islamic and secular groups escalating further into divisions along religious, tribal and political factions.

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Hanna Amar and Ken Duken in Algiers Confidential on MHz Choice

Two other noteworthy films about Algeria’s conflict include James Blue’s (1930-1950) 1962 film, “Les oliviers de la Justice” (The Olive Trees of Justice) based on Jean Pelegri’s novel about a 30-year old Frenchman’s return to the land of his birth — Algeria – to visit his dying father set against the backdrop of war and the “dying” relationship between the French and Algerians symbolized by the pathos and sensitivity of the non professional actors. The difficult task of re-structuring Algeria’s government and economy is portrayed by documentarians Marceline Loridan-Ivens (1928-2018) and Jean-Pierre Sergent in “Algerie, l’annee zero” (Algeria Year Zero) shot in November and December 1962. This cinema-verite account of Algeria’s victory exposed the conflict’s “horror, lies and absurdity” and French paramilitary abuses by the OAS (Organisation Armee Secrete) while focusing on the challenges facing Algeria on the road to political viability through democratic reform, economic self-sufficiency and agrarian reform as the lynchpin.

Despite conflating aspects of the recent past, such as the “Arab Spring,” Algiers Confidential sheds some light on what went right and wrong with Algeria’s quest for independence.

*NOTABLE PIEDS-NOIRS include actor Jean-Paul Belmondo’s father, sculptor Paul Belmondo; philosopher Jacques Derrida; Annie Fratellini, actress and 4th generation dynastic clown; Tony Gatlef, actor/musician of Romany ancestry; Marlene Jobert, actress/author; Marcel Cerdan, 1944 Inter-Allied Middle- weight Champion and 1948 World Middleweight Champion boxer (110 wins/4 losses); Enrico Macias, singer/musician; Yves Saint-Laurent, the most influential haute couturier of the second half of the 20th Century.

About the author:
A lover of Romance languages and cultures, Dr. Pearl Brandwein has a Certificate in French Culture and Civilization from the Sorbonne. She then earned both her Masters’ degree in French Language/Literature and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Dr. Brandwein’s areas of academic expertise include the Renaissance and the Faust Figure in European Literature in addition to 19th and 20th Century Drama. Her other interests include writing about Holocaust Literature.

Dr. Brandwein began her teaching career at Princeton University followed by faculty positions at other academic institutions. In addition to French, she has also taught German, Latin, English Composition and ESL to corporate executives. After academia, she held numerous positions in the public and private sectors working as an Editor/Instructor/Administrator and as a PR professional and business communications executive directing editorial and marketing initiatives for EU clients.

She is a cineaste and a lover of Film Noir, Westerns and foreign films as well as a theatre and opera buff; she also attends concerts, lectures, ballet performances, museum and gallery exhibitions. In her rare spare time, she reads voraciously.


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