Days of Glory
Dir. Rachid Bouchareb. 2006. R. 120mins. In subtitled French and Arabic. Jamel DebbouzeSami Bouajila, Bernard Blancan.
A deeply traditional WWII drama in many respects, Days deviates from the norm in addressing the war from the perspective of Muslim soldiers from France’s North African colonies, who fought to liberate the “fatherland” they'd never seen from its German occupiers. The film follows an infantry unit from basic training through a succession of grueling European campaigns, always under the stern command of a battle-hardened sergeant whose status as a pied noir (a Frenchman born in Algeria) puts him in a separate caste from both the men he commands and the French officers to whom he answers. Lackluster battle scenes are offset by interesting group dynamics as well as the collective experience of racial discrimination from the French military.
Debbouze stands out amid a strong ensemble cast as Saïd, an illiterate hick who unwisely adopts the sergeant as a surrogate father. Bouajila is equally good as the unit’s thoughtful and well-educated corporal, whose embrace of the French ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity sometimes pushes him to the brink of mutiny. (Opens Fri)—CD