February 1960: Djamila Boupacha, 22, is arrested in Algeria - in those days a French colony. She is accused of hiding freedom fighters and planting a bomb - which didn't go off - in a busy and popular café. After seemingly interminable custody, she confesses and faces a possible death penalty. Three months later, Parisian attorney Gisèle Halimi arrives in Algiers. On her first visit to Barberousse jail, she discovers a young militant covered in scars and proclaiming her innocence: A false confession was extracted from her under torture. The French administration does everything to prevent Gisèle Halimi from defending her client and revealing the practices of the French army in Algeria. The lawyer, backed by her husband - the secretary of Jean-Paul Sartre - mobilizes a growing number of highly influential figures: André Malraux, François Mauriac, Françoise Sagan, and, notably, Simone de Beauvoir. Gisèle Halimi manages to attain that a medical examination be carried out on Djamila's ...Written by
This film, made fifty years after Algeria's independence from France in 1962, has a contemporary resonance. The narrative is based on the story of Djamila Boupacha, a teenager mistakenly arrested for planting a bomb for the NFL. She subsequently endures weeks of sadistic tortures to extract her 'confession'. She is fast-tracked for execution (Djamilla explains that the guillotine is wheeled into the prison yard on the day that executions are due to take place). Whilst the use of torture to extract confessions has already been declared illegal by France, Djamilla's request for a fair trial is denied and you experience the frustration of Gisèle Halimi, Djamila's lawyer for whom the State gives and then takes away. With her execution imminent, the authorities use every device to prevent due process of law.
A subtext is the involvement of France's intellectual elite, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir - with Dominique Reymond creating a vivid yet restrained portrait of the heroic writer.
Pour Djamila is a truly convincing argument against the use of torture as a political expedient (aka 'extraordinary rendition'). It stands with Costa-Gavras's 1973 State of Siege as testimony to the psychopathic inhumanity of governments and their agencies.
The two leads, Marina Hands and Hafsia Herzi especially, as Djamilla, are totally convincing. The direction is fluid and free of artifice. The disgusting scenes of torture are included without any voyeuristic intent.
A brave and uncomfortable film by the great Caroline Huppert that doesn't pull punches. It also has a heart-stopping dénouement.
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