Damien Ounouri’s feature-length documentary Fidaï has received a distribution grant worth €4,300 ($6,500) from the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund, according to La Depeche de Kabylie.
Good news for a documentary film I screened at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) here in NYC last fall, in a three-part film exhibition titled Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, which aimed to highlight a largely unknown heritage of experimental cinema from the Arab world.
The works selected for the 3rd edition of Mapping Subjectivity hailed from North African countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and others, reflecting a diversity and richness of voices.
In Arabic, a Fidaï means a fighter who has sworn his life to a cause.
And that’s exactly what Mohamed El Hadi Benadouda considers himself, once one of countless anonymous veterans of the Algerian War of Independence against France, some 50 years ago; a successful 8-year rebellion against the French – a period that’s realistically and rivetingly documented in Gillo Pontecorvo’s landmark 1966 film, Battle Of Algiers; a film we’ve mentioned a number of times previously on this site, and highly recommend.
Joining the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in secret while living in France, El Hadi was a loyal soldier who carried out assassinations, lived underground and did time in prison; when Algeria won its independence in 1962, he was expelled from France and returned to his home country. Now seventy years old, on the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria’s independence, El Hadi recounts his years of struggle and hardship to his great-nephew Damien Ounouri in the documentary Fidaï, which is both a tribute to the anonymous heroes of a war that galvanized the imaginations of colonized people worldwide, and a critical reflection on the legacy that the war imprinted on the “new” Algerian society.
I’d call it a first-hand account of Algeria’s struggle for liberation from under French colonial rule, told by a man who was on the frontlines.
An official selection of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, here’s an English-language trailer for Fidaï: