Said Ould-Khelifa's Zabana! is Algeria's selection for the Best Foreign Language Oscar category.
Starring Imad Benchenni, Nicolas Pignon, Khaled Benaïssa, Laurent Gernigon, and Abdelkader Djeriou, Zabana!, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, is described as an impassioned, meticulously researched account of the short life of Algerian freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 by French colonial authorities ignited the crucial phase of Algeria's struggle for independence - a period that was thoroughly documented in Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 masterpiece Battle of Algiers.
By the way, Zabana!'s 2012 debut marks the 50th anniversary of Algeria's independence.
Azzedine Mihoubi (who penned the script) is said to have interviewed Zabana's relatives and close friends, and conducted extensive archival research in Algeria and France in writing the screenplay for a film praised for its documentary-style precision, and unfortunately, one that we have yet to see. Here's hoping for a USA release eventually.
It's worth noting that Algeria has submitted films for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film since 1969. Over that multi-decade period, 5 Algerian films have been nominated in that category:
- 1969, Costa Gavras' Z
- 1983, Ettore Scola's The Ball
- 1995, Rachid Bouchareb's Dust Of Life
- 2006, Rachid Bouchareb's Days Of Glory
- 2010, Rachid Bouchareb's Outside The Law
And of those 5 instances, only Costa Gavras' political thriller Z won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Also worth noting, if you've seen the last 2 films by Bouchareb, you'll notice that a common theme in both is the relationship between Algeria and its former colonial power, France. This year's submission, Zabana!, certainly continues that trend.
Here's its trailer (not subtitled):