COLONIALSM: A painful voyage back to the silenced Algerian War of Independence
Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 24, 2019

To deny parts of one’s own history is a well-known act in creating a national identity. The degree of this negation is a truthful indicator of the democratic health and capacities for cultural tolerance in societies. In France, the Algerian War of Independence remains, even today, one of the black holes of its historical recognition. In light of this, each contribution bringing up this theme already has intrinsic value, and a festival like Nyon’s Vision du Réel, which each year strengthens its position in the international documentary landscape, can only be congratulated for screening films dealing with such topics.

In Mansourah you separated us_algeria
In Mansourah you separated us, a film by Dorothée-Myriam Kellou

The silence

The young filmmaker Dorothée-Myriam Kellou spent her life in Nancy with a father who never spoke about his past. He is an example of those who amplify the official silence, even those personally confronted with horrific facts. One day, however, he gave his daughter a look at some documents from his childhood. Asking about the reasons for the silence, even from first-hand witnesses, is one of the leading directions of In Mansourah you separated us. The first answer given is simple insistent fear. The father confessed to his daughter that the statue raised to Sergeant Blandan, one of the French war heroes in Algeria, frightens him every day on his early-morning walk to his workplace.

The filmmaker convinced her father to take a voyage back in time to see the ruins of his own house and the remaining inhabitants of Mansourah, a village in the region of Kabylia, as well as other nearby villages, places he had not returned to after the war. In those days Mansourah had become a forced resettlement camp, set up by the French army as a strategic measure to fight against the National Liberation Front (FLN). Kellou captures private moments when, for example, her father places a photograph of his mother in the now-abandoned room where he was born. He remembers the day the French army sent flares over the civil population, searching for members of FLN. He nearly got killed that day.

He nearly …

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