Third Cinema, ‘The Battle of Algiers’

Selfish Dreamer
8 min readDec 5, 2020

One of the primary roles of the film is to address some of the issues affecting society. There are different types of film and the genre mainly depends on the issues that films in that genre address. The film has covered a major revolution since the 20th century, and there are certain films that have had a more profound impact on society. The key point of the film is either it applauds or critiques human behavior and society in general.

Thirt Cinema

The concept of third cinema describes films that draw inspiration from the struggles and desperation of people living in third-world countries (Marzano, 2009). Third cinema calls for action and it inspires the audience to take action to promote the main cause presented historically or as an event. Typically, the cause is an element of neo-colonialism, and the Third Cinema depicts the image of developed nations as evil capitalist economies driven by the desire for money and power.

Third Cinema illustrates how developed countries impose power on third-world countries and take advantage of citizens and resources from these developing economies (Ekotto & Koh, 2009). As such, countries such as the US are portrayed and described as brutal, oppressive forces that take advantage of the inferiority of third-world economies. The Third Cinema films illustrate how poverty affects people, and how there is usually no aspect of sugar-coating when it comes to the cinematic experience they deliver.

Third Cinema first started and gained popularity as a rallying call in the 1960s in parts of Latin America. It is deeply rooted in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and it also embodies the traits of Cinema Novo from Brazil. Cinema Novo was popular in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s, and it mainly emphasized intellectualism and social equality (Ekotto & Koh, 2009).

It is noteworthy that Cinema Novo was highly influenced by the aesthetics of hunger. Cinema Novo is a Brazilian film genre that ideally illustrates the power and influence of Third Cinema. Rocha (1970) explains that “…Cinema Novo narrated, described, poeticized, discourse, analyzed” to emphasize that Cinema Novo depicted things precisely as they were. Cinema Novo concentrated mainly on the theme of hunger, which Rocha describes as the biggest woe of Latin America since it was not understood. Yet, it was a situation faced by many.

Aesthetic used by Rocha

Rocha uses the concept of aesthetics of hunger to explain the imposing nature of Cinema Novo since it portrays the real situations being faced by Brazilians. Aesthetics of hunger implies the aspect of addressing the various dimensions of hunger. For instance, while some characters were depicted eating roots, others were filmed eating dirt, and there were extremes such as characters stealing to satisfy their hunger. Cinema Novo portrayed all these different dimensions of hunger to drive home the message that hunger was a major problem in Latin America. Thus, it can be argued that the Gallery of the Hungry contextualized the miserabilism that the government condemned. Thus, Rocha (1970) describes the aesthetics of hunger as the different dimensions of hunger that Cinema Novo highlighted, which eventually ignited the conversation on hunger in Latin America. Some critics of Cinema Novo preferred happy industry films made for entertainment purposes purely. However, it is the role of film to depict what is happening in society and do so in a manner that educates and enlightens the public, and that is a significant part of what the film The Battle of Algiers achieved.

The Battle of Algeries

The film is based on an actual war that took place in Algeria. The Battle of Algiers was a key moment in the Algerian struggle for independence. The war happened in the alleys and backstreets of Algeria between the summer 1956 and 1957 (Riegler, 2008). It was a fight between the Front de Liberation Nationale, FLN, and French Army paratroopers. The film embodies the key traits of Third Cinema. For one, it is based on a true story about a battle that took place in Algeria, Africa. The term battle understates the events that took place during the Battle of Algiers. The primary cause of this war was the struggle to control the Muslim population within the capital of Algeria (Riegler, 2008). Riegler further explains that the war was mainly characterized by short, intense bursts of close-quarters combat combined with the bombing of civilians as well as mass round-ups and torture of civilians. The French were violent, and they used excessive force against opponents who had inferior capabilities. This is the perfect definition of Third Cinema since it illustrates how powerful developed countries impose their power on people from less developed nations who have little to no means of retaliating with equal force.

The period between 1954 and 1962 was characterized by a war involving the FLN fighting against the French occupation of Algeria. FLN was an alliance of nationalist troops. The setting of the film is the capital city of Algeria between 1954 and 1960, when the battle between these two opposing factions intensified (Riegler, 2008). The film opens with a scene from 1957 as French forces torture captives in an attempt to obtain information regarding the location of Ali la Pointe, the alleged leader of the FLN resistance.

Brahim Haggiag (center, with arm outstretched) as revolutionary leader Ali La Pointe in a scene from Gillo Pontecorvo’s THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (1965).

A flashback scene comes up next in which Ali and three of his comrades are shown in their hideout in 1954. The plot of the film follows the story of how armed resistance developed under the stewardship of Ali. Ali is highlighted as the mastermind behind the Algerian resistance, which was based in Casbah, a densely populated part of the city that had tightly packed streets and buildings. The FLN launched a strike at the French police, who then retaliated by bombing civilians. This particular section illustrates how the colonial powers undermine their subjects which they deem inferior. After the civilian bombing, the FLN then plans bomb strikes targeting French paratroopers. The turning point in the battle came when the French brought in Colonel Mathieu to help with the interrogation of captured FLN fighters.

The subsequent scene depicts how the French paratroopers staged an offensive in which they broke down the pyramid structure of the resistance and used torture to extract information from suspects held captive. Eventually, the French forces identified the leadership of FLN, and in a 1957 operation, they blew up the hideout of Ali, the leader of the resistance. Mass demonstrations erupted in 196, and one of the key last scenes in the film is the voice-over, which announces that Algerian independence was obtained in 1962.

The film Battle of Algiers informs how the fight for national culture amounts to a fight for national liberation. Algeria was caught up in this war because the nationalist forces resisted the imposition of French rule. As such, the French responded to this resistance with a show of might (Riegler, 2008). The film presents two contrasting cultures, and this presupposition is supported by the two central characters, namely Colonel Mathieu and Ali la Pointe.

The main narrative gives Ali the privilege of being an individual hero in that he cultivates a sense of belief among the Algerians (Riegler, 2008). The involvement of the general public in the resistance is explained in the dialogue between characters in the film and visually displayed by their actions, which are placed in the context of Casbah and the Algerian people in general. The film cultivates a clearly defined relationship between the FLN and the civilians, and this relationship is defined as the basis for the Algerian revolt (Riegler, 2008). In other words, the Algiers acknowledged that the FLN was fighting for a noble cause, and they were more compelled to join the fight. The statement that “an Algerian Nation was born” highlights the fact that the resolution of the conflict is the triumph of the Algerians.

Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, Italy (1948)

Also, there are Neo-realism influences on the film. Neo-realism was introduced as a style of film in the 1930s, and it originated in Italy. Neorealism was characterized by a documentary nature as well as the use of non-professional actors along with the increased use of hand-held cameras. Neo-realism had a significant impact in Italy and beyond, and clearly, it influenced The Battle of Algiers. Neo-realism approaches to film-making differed from the studio system, and the result was a more authentic feel to the film.

In conclusion, The Battle of Algiers qualifies as a Third Cinema film. The film is based on an actual battle that took place in Algeria as nationalist forces clashed with French troops. The film uses composite characters, and it has a documentary feel to it. Overall, the film uses the concept of aesthetics of hunger since it depicts what happened without sugarcoating. Thus, The Battle of Algiers is a Third-Cinema film that addresses the concept of the fight for national liberation and how colonial forces used their power to oppress people in less-developed economies.


Ekotto, F., & Koh, A. (Eds.). (2009). Rethinking Third Cinema: The role of anti-colonial media and aesthetics in postmodernity (Vol. 13). LIT Verlag Münster.

Marzano, N. (2009). Third Cinema Theory: New Perspectives. Kinema: A Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media.

Riegler, T. (2008). “The Battle of Algiers”–blueprint for revolution/counterrevolution? Resistance Studies, 3, 52–62.

Rocha, G. (1970). An Aesthetic of Hunger.”. Alto-image (London), (1).



Selfish Dreamer

Beginner in writing . Multilingual and am working to practice my language and writing skill in multiple languages. Interested in movie critiques & social issues