Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) burned up the screen on Monday night at the IFI French Film Festival to a full house. Rachid Bouchareb’s eagerly anticipated film is a powerful tale of three brothers who survive the Sétif massacre in French-occupied Algeria in 1945 after WWII and relocate to Paris and organise the underground Algerian independence movement. Bouchareb’s film has become infamous at this stage for causing over 1o00 protestors to gather in the face of riot police to denounce the film’s ‘anti-French’ and ‘pro-terrorist’ stance at this year Cannes Film Festival. There must have been a few empty posh bars along the Boulevard De La Croisette that night.
Outside the Law tells the story of three brothers who in their different ways become entwined within the struggle to secure Algerian independence in Paris. Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) is released from prison after serving a sentence for radical activity. Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) is a veteran of France’s war in Indochina. Saïd (Jamel Debouze) runs a nightclub and trains a young Algerian boxer. Abdelkader is the force behind the brothers’ attempts at a bloody revolution and Bouajila’s performance is a commanding portrayal of determination and total belief in the extremes he and his fellow countrymen must go to secure what is rightfully theirs. The film never shies away from pointing out how people are forced to violent extremes when political options are denied them.
Bouchareb handles the action sequences with great skill and keeps a tight rein on the epic scope of the film that spans numerous years maintaining a pace that belies its 138-minute running time. Outside the Law is a potent piece of filmmaking that asks questions of French cinema to open itself up to deal with its nation’s colonial past.
Outside the Law screens again on Friday, 26th November at 16.00.
Earlier that day saw the screening of Restless (Le bel âge), Laurent Perreau’s directorial debut. A coming of age tale with a strong central performance by Pauline Ettiene, the film focuses on Claire, a restless teenager struggling to shape her future and unable to communicate with her cranky grandfather with whom she lives.
Click here for details of the festival’s programme of events.