Days Of Glory

Days Of Glory


Reviewed by: Chris

Did you ever want to make your parents proud as a kid? I know I did. Make my dad proud. It's like a confirmation that what I did was worth while. There can be a similar feeling as part of citizenship. And in wartime, as devotion to the nation - which even gets to be called 'Mother' -land or 'Father' -land.

For colonial countries, this phrase is also used for the distant, unseen, (and maybe idealised) conquering power. For Jamaica, the mother-country was England. Inspiring devotion with superlatives. For Algeria and much of Africa, it was France.

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Rachid Bouchareb's Oscar-nominated film draws us in as we meet young men in the north of Africa, circa 1943, ready to fight a war. One man pleads with his mum to let him go and fight - to free the Motherland! Many sacrifice their lives. And the rest are not honoured by the French.

"If I free a country, it's my country, even if I've never seen it before," says a soldier, recounting brave exploits to a young French girl's eager ears.

Some of Days of Glory seems at times quite pedestrian. Battles are recounted that mean little to the current generation. We do know early on that this movie's theme is the mistreatment of the Africans, the Algerians, the Muslims, the Indigenes. Or "the men" (as they are only reluctantly called). And is it enough to sway public and political opinion?

Cinematography focuses on realistic chronology. Most time periods are heralded with date and place, colour slowly suffusing black-and-white film. This maybe suggests that events seems black and white in textbooks but, as real people are coloured in before our eyes, a different story is told. The momentum, which had sagged in the middle, does gather knife-edge pace towards the end. But it is the acting that grips our attention and it makes us catch our breath. We watch these men's emotions transform visibly from naked fear to real courage. Women who welcome the soldiers are a revelation. I think this is the first time I have watched a war movie and truly been able to understand the power and charisma a triumphant soldier brings home - and glimpse why the women respond as they do.

Our heroes take Nazi bullets as well as Frenchmen. The women would love them too - were their letters not prejudicially confiscated.

Ken Loach's film, Cathy Come Home, is famous for supposedly influencing British government policy on homelessness and the rights of mothers. French President Jacques Chirac, after watching Days of Glory, made a $190 million decision to restore full pensions to 80,000 North African troops. That is quite an accolade: probably treasured more than all the wins at Cannes or the Oscar nomination. But perhaps the most lasting impression the film made on me is the positive images of Muslims, something we are starved of in a West that lives with constant fear of Islamic terrorists. Days of Glory didn't just show cultural difference, it showed personality traits that remind me of qualities of the Mussulman of legend. His passion, his willingness to fight for what he believes to be a just cause. His pride, and how he is not easily intimidated, even by a superior officer. Britain learned at least to utilise the particular fighting strengths of the Indian nation, but the West seems to miscalculate hopelessly when dealing with these proud and extraordinarily brave races represented in the film - no wonder they were used for little more than cannon fodder.

Graves show final resting places of Christians and Muslims side-by-side - an incredibly powerful symbol of unity for all mankind - yet one that was incredibly, and needlessly, wasted.

I never did make my father proud. But he died before I realised my own humble missions in life. For French Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, the promised Days of Glory never really came. Not really.

Until this film.

Reviewed on: 02 Apr 2007
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Four North African men join the French army to fight the Nazis, but will their deeds be remembered?

Read more Days Of Glory reviews:

Andrew Robertson ****1/2

Director: Rachid Bouchareb

Writer: Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle

Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Bernard Blancan, Mathieu Simonet

Year: 2006

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France/Morocco/Algeria/Belgium

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