MIFF: Indigènes (France, Algeria, Morocco, Belgium)


History is written by the victors, they say. History is also written by the colonisers. Despite the justifiability of Western Europe’s indignation at the neo-con imperialism of Bush, Cheney et alia, there is something undeniably hypocritical in their stand when considered from the perspective of their own colonial pasts. Take two of the producing countries of this film: Belgium and France. In the Congo, the Belgians tried to make up for their country’s temperate reputation with gruesome atrocities. In North Africa, French forces practised “pacification” through massacre and were hardly averse to torture. There have been films, such as The Battle of Algiers, that have chillingly brought these matters to a global audience and Indigènes is a film steeped in the post-colonial political mire of the last fifty years. The film follows the tribulations and victories of a North African infantry division fighting for the French in the Second World War. The soldiers, from Algeria and Morocco, are risking their lives for the very colonisers that for so long stood as the enemy but who, in wartime, promise them liberty, equality and fraternity, regardless of ethnicity. Of course, promises and words of honour are easily given and easily lost in the fog of war. Tracing the men’s journey across French soil as far as the Alsace, Indigènes always balances courage with despair, camaraderie with mistrust, love with narrow-minded injustice. It is unashamedly an attack against France’s cynical exploitation of its colonies and one which has borne fruit—the French government was propelled into action in the wake of this film to raise the pensions awarded to 80,000 former soldiers. It is also a very fine war film and a heartfelt cry for solidarity and justice at a time when the chasm between Europe and its former colonies is as vast and dangerous as ever.

Screening at RMIT Capitol Theatre: Sun, 12th of August, 5:30 PM