Days of Glory
Cast : Jamel Debbouze, Sami Bouajila
Direction : Rachid Bouchareb
Rating : *** ½
The two Iwo Jima films by Clint Eastwood, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan have been meaningful and unvarnished looks at the days of World War II. Now, add Days of Glory to that list.
The focus is on North African soldiers fighting in the French army. Director–co-writer Bouchareb follows a handful of Algerians and Moroccans as they trek through hostile terrain teeming with fascist forces.
The motley crew includes a well-educated corporal (Bouajila), an ace marksman (Roschdy Zem) and a dirt-poor villager ( Debbouze). Incidentally, the trio collectively won the Best Actor Prize at the 2006 Cannes film festival.
Bouchareb indicts the racism and injustices perpetrated by the colonial masters. Treated as second-class citizens, the war-weary North Africans are denied promotions, home leave and even the tomatoes served to the French soldiers at dinner. The corporal snaps at one point, “But German bullets don’t pick and choose”.
On combat missions, the army of Africa fought gallantly to liberate a ‘motherland’ they had never visited before. Shockingly, their sacrifices were subsequently air-brushed out of history. Worse, the pensions of these veterans were withheld for more than 60 years after the war ended.
The deliberate pace is enlivened by a couple of brilliantly choreographed battle scenes. In addition to the principal protagonists, there are expert supporting performances from Bernard Blancan as an authoritarian sergeant and Samy Naceri as a mercenary Moroccan.
A credible if slightly flawed epic, Days of Glory is recommended for the discerning viewer.