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Hors La Loi (Outlaw) is playing tonight in Competition (being sold by StudioCanal) and is stirring up unresolved controversies about the Algerian War. The conservatives of France’s political system who have strong influence in the south of France are calling for the film’s boycott as well as calling for the occupation of the Palais stairs. The Swat team is out to maintain order and all people entering the Palais are being carefully searched.
Today in Cannes the riot control officers are out! Riot police held off protestors on the Cannes waterfront Friday during a demonstration against the film festival screening of an explosive thriller about the Algerian war of independence. Police with batons and shields blocked demonstrators from reaching the festival hall. Police estimated some 1,200 people joined the protest which involved members of the far-right National Front party, but no incidents were reported. The party and other right-wing politicians have accused Bouchareb of distorting history in his emotionally-charged account of Algerian militants’ fight against French colonization of their homeland. The movie, part-financed by France, tells the story of Algerian brothers who are driven from their home as children by colonialists and grow up to mount an armed resistance movement on French soil.
Although it competes in Cannes under the flag of Algeria, Hors La Loi (Above the Law) by Rachid Bouchareb is mainly a French coproduction which angers the conservatives of France. €650,000 or 59% of the budget was paid for by the French box office receipt fund CNC. The rest of the funding is 21% from Algeria, 10% from Tunisia and 10% from Belgium. The film is also supported by the subsidiaries of France 2 Cinema, France 3 and StudioCanal.
The controversy regards the origin of the Setif massacres of May 8, 1945 . The French army, through its service history, has found numerous “errors” and “anachronism” in the scenario.
Bouchareb’s treatment of the darker aspects of the war in Algeria has triggered a growing controversy. UMP deputy Lionnel Luca denounced the film as anti-French. According to the conservative MP, Above the Law is likely to inflame relations between French youth of North African origin with the rest of the population, given its clear impact at the box office. A local politician in Cannes, Andre Mayet,issued a call to ban the film and has called for the occupation of the Palais steps.
The controversy concerns in particular the trigger for the massacres. Bouchareb shows how the French army massacred the first nationalist insurgents of the Algerian people. Lionnel Luca disagrees: “The first day of the massacre of May 8 was suffered by the Europeans who were lynched by a mob that was armed, not with bare hands!” According to LePointe, the controversy will only benefit the film’s theatrical release scheduled for September 22.
Above the Law plays in Cannes on May 21. That day, a memorial to all the victims of the war in Algeria will be held at the Festival de Cannes.