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Algerian anti-colonial film sparks Cannes protests

media Director Rachid Bouchareb attends a photocall for the film Hors La Loi … Reuters

Some 1,200 people assembled in Cannes to pay homage to French soldiers who fought in Algeria in the 1940s on Friday, the day when French-Algerian film-maker Rachid Bouchareb’s film about the Algerian independence movement is being screened. The film has sparked controversy in France for its negative portrayal of France’s colonial history.

France’s far-right National Front party planned the march to protest against Bouchareb’s Hors-la-loi (Outside of the law).

The film is about Algerian brothers who grow up to launch a resistance movement in France. It opens with the massacre of Algerian citizens by the French army in Sétif in 1945.

The mayor of Cannes, Bernard Brochand, is holding a ceremony for French victims of the events in Sétif. Brochand is a member of the ruling UMP party and several other UMP members are involved in the initiative.

About 70 veterans of the war came, carrying flags. After trooping the colour, they sang the Marseilleise. The police have increased their presence around the film’s screening.

The UMP French secretary of state, defence and war veterans, Hubert Falco, said he would have nothing to do with the film.

“The ceremony is strictly local, organised by the Cannes municipality, and he has nothing to do with it,” his office said.

Lionnel Luca, the member of parliament for Alpes-Maritimes, said Bouchareb had falsified history and aggravated old wounds in an irresponsible manner.

“Rachid Bouchareb’s film, which I have just watched, is partisan, militant and pro FLN (National Liberation Front),” he said. “It is even worse than I’d heard. I’m sorry that French channels have financed a film where the French army is compared to the SS and the French police to the Gestapo.”

Between 15,000 Algerians, according to French historians, and up to 45,000, according to Algerian, were killed by the French army in repression of pro-independence demonstrations.

Bouchared said he had not wanted to cause a fight.

"Cinema is not a battlefield," he said. "I made the film to open the debate in a calm way."

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