Opium and the Baton (L’Opium et le Baton), Dir. Ahmed Rachedi, Algeria, 1977, 135 mins, French and Arabic with English subtitles
Set amid the Algerian War of Independence, an Algerian doctor leaves the troubles in Algiers and returns to his hometown, a small village in the mountains. There, however, he finds the situation equally explosive: the guerrilla force is active and the French military keeps a close watch on the locals.
Based on Mouloud Mammeri’s 1965 novel of the same title, Ahmed Rachedi’s faithful adaptation is extravagant and intimate; immediate yet complex. A tapestry about the struggle for liberation and the inherent problems of freedom, Rachedi’s film is also a reflection of the evolution of the Algerian war movies, combining the sheer assurance of the Algerian cause with the scepticism that would grow in later pictures. This newly restored version is presented in the UK for the first time.