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Mainstream - Days of Glory / Les Indigenes

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Les Indigenes / Days Of Glory
Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb
French and Arabic with English subtitles
France 2006
125 minutes

The DVD Days Of Glory / Les Indigenes is a French war movie. This means they talk a lot more than they fight. As a matter of fact, there are very few French soldiers in Days Of Glory and this is its point. Les Indigenes tells the story of a platoon of Moroccan soldiers who enlist to liberate their motherland, France. This war movie won the cast the Cesar (French Oscar) for best actor. Once you have watched the movie you will understand why Days of Glory is a really bad translation of the movie's French title.

Sergeant Martinez, Bernard Blanca, is a white Moroccan, a pied-noir, leading a troop of volunteers to liberate France. Days of Glory / Les Indigenes is a movie about the many injustices and the racism these foreign soldiers face as they liberate France. Many of them do not have boots during the winter months; Messaoud writes to a pretty French girl he spent the night with but all his letters are censored by a French army bureaucrat only because he is from Africa; they do not get leave; get second class food, and so on. Even the best of them do not get any promotions.

A lot of this war movie focuses on Said, an illiterate villager played by Jamel Debbouze and the innocent character in this movie. You will notice Debbouze plays the role a la Gary Burghoff / Radar in MASH since he too has a crippled hand.

The soldiers, led by Abdelkader (Samir Bouajila), do fight for their rights, including a memorable scene early on involving the distribution of tomatoes. Not that this movie does not have its share of moments that use humor to show cultural differences. There is a really good scene where the soldiers are promised dancers and get a ballet show and this is followed by a solid face-off between Yassir and the sergeant who shows his true colors. They also have the occasional crisis of faith about why they are fighting for a country they are vassals to.

The crux of the movie comes when the soldiers volunteer for a dangerous mission with the promise their fight will be recognized and they will be the first French soldiers to walk into Alsace. The following scene in the small, French village is the only sustained combat scene here and quite dramatic. The French army's promise is, of course, not held.

Days of Glory / Les Indigenes is a tad wee bit heavy handed in its message and a bit long but it is overall a pretty good war movie. It closes with the note that in 1959 the French government froze the pensions of all soldiers from its former colonies, a wrong that was only recently righted.

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