Days of Glory – the Cinema of Rachid Bouchareb

With films like Days of Glory you are reminded of the power of cinema and Rachid Bouchareb has made what can only be described as one of the most important films in recent times. Extremely influential, the film has played a major role in persuading the French President Jacques Chirac to reinstate war pensions of the African and Arab soldiers in line with the White French soldiers of the Second World War.

Steeped in its colonial past, the film tracks key Arab and African characters entering the arena of the Second World War. Sandal clad, severely under rationed and experiencing racism from fellow French soldiers this motley band of ‘native’ soldiers fight a battle on both fronts. Powerful and moving the film sets out to show the brutal inequality within the French and allied troops.

Ironically, the second and particularly the third generation of Arab/African communities in France and the rest of Europe remain oblivious to the immense contribution by the ‘native’ free army against the rise and onslaught of Nazi Germany. Over the years, the level of racism in France has been increasing where second generation Arab and African French are further disenfranchised from the mainstream; riots, gang fights, lack of education, lack of job opportunities and facilities continue to maintain the status quo.

Traditionally the Arab and African community in France has had very little opportunity to integrate. In the urban areas, in particular Paris, the suburbs which encircle Paris are largely made up of working class and the minorities. It is this separation which is so defined, continues to contribute to the breakdown between the two communities.

Days of Glory succeeds to bring in audiences across the board without simplifying and watering down facts. In fact, the film goes a long way to play to the Arab, African and the White French population. A highly creative and political work, the film triumphantly crosses over in both the commercial and art cinema sectors.

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