Algerian independence film stirs protest at Cannes

Fri May 21, 2010 10:15am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A film on the bloody fight for Algerian independence opened amid heightened police security in Cannes on Friday as demonstrators outside protested that it sullied the memory of the French army.

"Hors la Loi" ("Outside the Law"), by the team that made the award-winning "Days of Glory" in 2006 rounds off the official competition and adds an element of controversy to the world's biggest film festival.

Five decades after Algeria was granted independence in 1962, director Rachid Bouchareb deals with an issue that is still highly sensitive in France but he said he hoped to stir debate rather than confrontation.

"I knew that the colonial past and the relationship with the colonial past between France and Algeria is still very tense but I think the reaction and all the things that have been said before anyone's seen the film, have been excessive."

As if to underline his point, police in riot gear lined up outside the Palais des Festivals as hundreds of flag-bearing demonstrators including military veterans and supporters of the far-right National Front marched past the Cannes town hall.

"What we want to make clear by demonstrating is that it is intolerable that public money from France can be used to sully the French army and France's actions in Algeria," said Jacques Peyrat, a veteran and former French senator.

Thousands died in the brutal Algerian war for independence from France, a conflict that has left deep and still-unhealed scars in both countries.

However Bouchareb said he hoped the film would help foster an open debate and "then we should move on to something else."   Continued...

<p>A demonstrator holds a placard to protest against the film Hors La Loi (Outside the Law) by director Rachid Bouchareb in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2010. The placard shows a picture with an Algerian flag, with the word "Murderer". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>