Programmed by Jürgen Ellinghaus
Karl Gass tackles the Algerian war in three stylistically-distinct chapters. Firstly, the little-known aspects of a conflict usually perceived as basically French and Algerian – he looks at West Germany’s involvement via its industrial interests but also the many German recruits in the Foreign Legion. After elucidating the role West Germany played in the conflict, the film addresses (through the portrait of Aïcha, a nurse in the refugee camp on the Tunisian border) the war’s traumatic impact on children, families and refugees. It concludes with an emotional call for solidarity with the Algerian people.
“Allons enfants… for Algeria” is the work of Karl Gass, one of East Germany’s leading documentary directors who influenced an entire generation of documentary filmmakers in what used to be East Germany. Allowing itself a few conflations that detract from its scope, and other tendentious manipulations in its editing, this virulent denunciation of French and (West) German imperialism establishes parallels between the colonial war and Nazi fascism as it hints at the latter’s persistence. The exploitation of the colonial conflict even provided arguments to justify the construction of the Berlin Wall. Combining different styles, the film’s messages follow the well-established patterns of Marxist-Leninist doxa in use at the time in the Eastern Bloc. While the film offers a “different vision” of the Algerian War, it also bears all the hallmarks of cold war propaganda.