There has never been a WWII film quite like Rachid Bouchareb's DAYS OF GLORY, which shows the "good war" through the eyes of four North African soldiers fighting for the French army during the German occupation. Though similar in both structure and tone to Steven Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, GLORY seeks recognition for soldiers who were treated as second-class citizens during their service and never given their due. Under the leadership of Sergeant Martinez (Bernard Blancan), a company of North African soldiers undergoes a series of skirmishes across Italy and France, preventing the advance of the Nazis. Uneducated Said (Jamel Debbouzel, AMELIE), who had few options outside of enlistment, acts as a virtual servant to Martinez. Yassir (Samy Naceri) and his brother, Larbi (Assad Bouab), also come from poverty and--though they joined for selfish reasons--are fierce fighters. Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) is strong and silent, and has deadly aim with a rifle. Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), however, is the ambitious one, unafraid to speak up when he and his company encounter prejudice, yet ever hopeful that he will be recognized for his achievements and be given the same liberty, equality, and fraternity as those who were born French. Through a series of bloody and spectacular battles with the Germans, these men risk their lives, never knowing what they will have at the end of it all.
DAYS OF GLORY packs all the punch of a great war film---thrilling and heartbreaking battles, humor, and the loss of people we grow to care for. Bouchareb fearlessly uses a time-honored genre to address an elephant in the French living room: we are told at the film's conclusion that, in 1952, France voted to cease pension payments to soldiers from countries no longer under French rule. In 2006, following a screening of this film, Jacques Chirac reinstituted their pensions.
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