In the opening scenes of Gillo Pontecorvo's seminal 60s film, The Battle of Algiers, a man with an expressionless look on his face is escorted to the guillotine by two French guards. Although reticent at first, he soon breaks his silence – much to the chagrin of his escorts – loudly chanting Allaho Akbar! (God is great) and Tayha Al Jazayer! (long live Algeria), stirring his comrades to raise their voices and join in. 'Shut up! There he is!' exclaims Ali La Pointe, the film's ill-starred hero, as he and his fellow inmates rush to a hole in the wall to catch a fleeting glimpse of the mysterious man's final moments. Swiftly and unceremoniously, the man is placed beneath the merciless blade of the macabre instrument, which – in a bleak and chilling instant – comes crashing down.
Such is how Gillo Pontecorvo's film begins, and conversely, how Said Ould-Khalifa's ends. Ould-Khalifa's latest film, Zabana! recounts the events that culminated in the Algerian War of Independence – a searing episode in history which branded itself on the hearts and minds of Algerians everywhere – as seen through the eyes of that hitherto unnamed convict: Ahmed Zabana. Set in the 1950s, Zabana! strives to provide audiences with an Algerian account of the short life of one of the chief instigators of what Sir Alistair Horne referred to as a 'savage war for peace', as well as a contemporary depiction of some of the causes of that war.
(Synopsis courtesy of the 2012 Muftah.org)