By Phil Harman
Outside the Law (2010) is a deeply moving story about three brothers who are ousted from their land in Algeria under French rule. The brothers later endure further tragedy at the hands of the French when they are present at a protest which ends in bloody terror as the French butcher the protestors; the brothers watch on helplessly as their sisters and their father are murdered in the fray.
Without wishing to give too much away, the film, which is set during the Second World War, goes on to explore the destinies of these three brothers, namely Abdelkader, Messaoud and Said. All three follow differing paths after the deep emotional wounds of their past and it is very difficult not to identify with their struggle. This is an accomplishment for director Rachid Bouchareb who makes it easy for the audience to be forgiving of the brothers’ behaviour which is, at times, detestably violent through the candid portrayal of their difficulties.
Bouchareb succeeds in telling an extremely complicated tale, carefully weaving the relationships between the brothers, and what remains of their family, into the context of deep political tensions between France and Algeria during wartime. The French public have been particularly sensitive to the release of the film as many believe Bouchareb’s portrayal of the French authorities is exaggerated and unjust. The French officials are undoubtedly the villain of this piece and other historical inaccuracies have gone a long way to angering the French further.
Many other films, however, have twisted historical events for narrative gain and it seems fair to say that anybody watching this would be well aware that they are watching a dramatisation rather than a historical documentary.
Unto its genre Outside the Law delivers. It is difficult to look away even though at times you want to and Bouchareb has chosen his leading actors wisely. Each of the three brothers offers a deeply engaging performance which immediately draws the viewer into their excruciatingly painful world.
Outside the law is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 5th September 2011.