Film reveals Paris crackdown of 1961 Algeria protest

Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:04pm EST
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By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - When Yasmina Adi got access to archives documenting the 1961 repression of Algerian protesters in Paris, she was shocked to uncover a trove of material relating to gaps in the story of one of the most contested events in recent French history.

As Algeria's battle for independence spilled into France, Paris police chief Maurice Papon ordered police to crack down on thousands of Algerian protesters who defied a curfew on October 17 1961. Dozens of bodies were later pulled from the River Seine.

Papon, who died in 2007, was the only French Nazi official to be convicted for his role in the deportation of Jews during World War Two. France has acknowledged the deaths of 40 people in the 1961 incident, but Adi says her research suggests it was much worse.

"This period remains a blank page. France doesn't recognize October 17 in school history books, it is not mentioned. Nothing you saw is in textbooks," Adi, who is of Algerian origin, said after "Here We Drown Algerians - October 17, 1961" aired at the Dubai International Film Festival this week.

"The people you saw are getting old, so this is an attempt to maintain the historical memory."

The documentary is narrated through the testimony of Algerians dragged off the streets by police and uses archive footage showing haunting images of thousands held in detention centers, transported in buses and sitting in planes during deportation.

A media campaign branded the protesters as Muslim terrorists, Adi's film says.

Some, such as Hadda Khalfi, one of the main interviewees who explains how her husband disappeared never to return, have never received an apology or compensation from the state.   Continued...