Cécile Decugis

T. alt.: Réfugiés algériens en Tunisie. Scen., F., M., Int.: Cécile Decugis (voce narrante). Prod.: Hedy Ben Khalifa. DVD. D.: 14’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

“Early in 1957, two years after the start of what was then called ‘les événements d’Algérie’, the French minister of Defence, André Morice, decided on building, along the Algerian-Tunisian border, a defensive electric fence which would bear his name” (introductory title).

The film, then called Les Réfugiés, was made in June 1957 by Cécile Decugis and the Tunisian director Hedy ben Khalifa, as an assignment by the young Tunisian Republic. It was shown to the UN when Tunisia was admitted in November and was asking for support to solve its problems. The location was the ‘forbidden zone’ where refugees were gathering, which also served as a rear base for the ALN (National Liberation Army).

“In the 2000s, Cécile Decugis found the picture negative (minus soundtrack) of Les Réfugiés and decided to have a new look at it. She recorded a new commentary and took the liberty of interrogating the images shot in 1957. The new version was titled La Distribution de pain and was shown in 2011” (www.algériades.com).

Now as then, the necessary information is provided, but the narration discreetly adopts the perspective of the present. The manipulation of documentary shooting is criticized: “The picture of a child lost on a deserted road is a topos of war reporting: it brings out compassion in the audience, all the more since that audience is far from the battlefield and ignorant of military operations”. In fact, “that child is not lost, it is standing a few dozen meters from the families in the resettlement area”, as revealed by a panning shot.

Beyond the pictures, there is the Algerian border, but also the discussions inside the FLN leadership. Before long, they would engage in internecine struggles and physical eliminations: “Strangely enough, the Algerian revolutionaries were taking their cue from the tradition of European revolutions”.