This evening we watched Gillo Pontecorvo’s extraordinarily powerful Battle of Algiers. Insurgency and counter-insurgency. Systematic, very deliberate, state-sanctioned use of torture. The atmospherics of the Casbah and the authenticity of a cast playing itself. (Indeed, there is only one professional actor in the film: Jean Martin, playing the elegant and cultured Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu, the paratroop commander.) The film is frequently described as being a masterpiece and surely deserves the claim. It was also often described in the past as a sort of primer for anti-colonialist movements. But I think it still resonates today, in our post-colonial world. For what it portrays best of all is the unquenchable and ultimately irresistible thirst for freedom of peoples, wherever they may be and under whatever circumstances. The film concentrates on the methodical and successful crushing of a rebellion. Only the coda reveals the liberation that was to follow and it is summed up in the image of people swarming over a tank. The image reminds me of the observation about dictators, that they can kill as many people as they like, but their successors will, inexorably, be among the survivors.