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Algerian cinema between commercial and political pressures: The double distortion

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Although ‘transnational’ cinema is now a widely-used category in the literature, to understand what ‘transnational’ means we need also to be able to conceptualize the ‘national’. This article argues that ‘Algerian cinema’ no longer exists. Instead, what is today termed ‘Algerian cinema’ often deals with social problems that are in fact French issues transposed into an Algerian context. The article demonstrates how this situation has arisen by examining the funding of films ‘about’ Algeria via the French Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC), the language quotas that such bodies impose and how these funding mechanisms give films a linguistic identity which is often at odds with the sociocultural context of the scenario. It then turns to explore the academic reception of these films and the way in which they are often used as documentary snapshots into contemporary Algeria, with little attention paid to the ways in which they are products of a particular funding context. Finally, it considers how the Algerian state interacts with these ‘Algerian films’ and the political factors at play in the state’s selective instrumentalization of them. It concludes that in both subject matter and academic analyses, ‘Algerian cinema’ is subject to a double distortion, a situation which the term ‘transnational’ does not capture. The paper will refer to the work of film-makers including Merzak Allouache, Nadir Moknèche and Djamila Sahraoui.
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Keywords: Algeria; Djamila Sahraoui; France; Merzak Allouache; Nadir Moknèche; academic reception; film funding; language choice; national cinema; transnational cinema

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Portsmouth

Publication date: 01 March 2016

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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