Days of Glory (Indigenes)What is there to say about a film as moving, triumphant, and expertly executed on all accounts as Days of Glory? Its praises have been sung by most reviewers, even earning an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film. Days of Glory is an Americanized title, but one that still manages to capture the essence of the film. The original Algerian title is Indigenes, a word used to describe the hundreds of thousands of indigenous soldiers from colonial Africa who fought for France in World War II. Clearly Indigenous Soldiers isn’t as powerful a title.

Although Days of Glory is a sweeping war picture that has been aptly compared to other war dramas like Saving Private Ryan and Glory, at heart it is still a character study, focusing on four Muslim soldiers as they maneuver through the rough terrain on the war field, and the somewhat rougher terrain of racial inequality and injustice in their own camp. Prepared to battle for what they call the “motherland”, the North African soldiers who signed up find themselves unsure of how to react to the rampant racism demonstrated by their sergeants.

Each character may be a well-known archetype of war movies (the headstrong leader, the humble and uneducated soldier, the mercenary, the lover) but each actor has the skill and the desire to flesh these characters out into completely realistic and believable people. The acting is intense and honest and watching these men throughout their mission is all the more moving as we are able to see real emotions, desires, and fears. These actors have completely invested themselves into the film, and into their characters, earning a special male ensemble award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the “making of” documentary included on the DVD, lead actor (and producer) Jamel Debbouze tells of how director Rachid Bouchareb approached his four main actors not only with the script, but also with the paperwork showing that each of their grandfathers had actually been involved in the war. This may shed some light on the dedication these men showed in telling this important story. A story so important that it led to French President Jacques Chirac restoring the pensions of the empire veterans (whose pensions we learn in the film were frozen in 1959). In the film’s touching final moments, as one of the leads walks the streets in anonymity, we begin to fully understand the completely unrewarded sacrifice these men have made for a country that chose not to reward them… until almost 50 years later.

Bouchareb has finally brought his dream project to life. After trying to get it produced for over a decade, it is abundantly clear that the final product justifies the wait and the effort on so many levels. Days of Glory is the kind of film that inspires people to accomplish more and to look for the greatness in others. The DVD comes out June 12th and shouldn’t be missed by any true fan of great cinema or historical drama.
Days of Glory

For more information on the film, and to view a trailer visit the film’s homepage
For more hisorical information, visit the Imperial War museum

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