I watched Indigènes (Days of Glory)
, a feature about three Berbers who join the Free French to fight for their "fatherland," France. Although they fight very hard for the French, and die for the French, it soon becomes clear that the French don't regard them as equals. They are mistreated in all sorts of ways, making them question whether France really stands for "Liberté, Egalité et surtout Fraternité". Racist French officers didn't promote them (there was a quota), their letters to French girls were censored, they weren't given leave to go home or the same food as the white guys.
This is a beautifully made, well-written and well-acted movie. Oh, and it won Cannes, no doubt because it told the French some uncomfortable truths about themselves.
But its story starts to become not all that surprising, unless one is laboring under the delusion that the French live up to their own rhetoric. And the movie becomes a bit tiresome to watch.
Lord knows I'm not against bashing the French for being colonialists. But I think if I were trying to tell people how France abused its territorial troops, I think I'd make the story about something else. Maybe about a sergeant and a soldier who don't get along. Maybe about class differences among the recruits. Two guys in love with the same girl back home. And the guy who actually has the girl is screwing every French girl he can, while the guy who doesn't have the girl is faithful to her. Whatever. Make that racism the background to a story whose resolution isn't predictable from the beginning.
Sometimes you can reveal a truth better by letting the audience uncover it, rather than waving it in their faces. It's sometimes hard to remember that when you're stoked up about an issue. But unless the audience is already stoked up, you're going to push them away.
Labels: watching movies