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Cities of the Middle East


Stories and Dreams



For centuries Algiers has exerted a powerful, though intermittent fascination on the European imagination. Linked by sea trade with the Catalan-language territories from the Middle Ages onwards and under French rule after 1830, it became a source of literary and historical inspiration for such writers as Henri de Saint Simon, Albert Camus and Pierre Bourdieu. After a brutal war of independence, Algeria had to overcome yet another period of extreme violence in the 1990s. Now, ten years on, the country is struggling to recover democratic normality and the rich cultural life of Berber, Roman, Arab and French legacies that has been the wellspring of some of the contemporary world’s most influential intellectuals.

Fred Halliday, director of the CCCB series of conferences on cities of the Middle East.


Monday, 23 November

7 p.m. DEBATE

Nabila Oulebsir, is an art historian and researcher at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris). She has published inter alia Alger. Paysage urbain et architectures (Éditions de l’Imprimeur, 2003).

Nadir Moknèche, is one of Algeria’s best known young filmmakers. Among the films he has directed is Viva Laldjérie (2004).

Moderator: Fred Halliday, ICREA Research Professor at IBEI.


Viva Laldjérie, by Nadir Moknèche (Algeria / Belgium / France, 2004), 113 min. Original version with Spanish subtitles.

People’s lives cross in a modest building in the centre of Algiers. Papicha, a former cabaret dancer is in hiding for fear of attacks by Islamic fundamentalists. Goucem, her daughter, works in a photography shop and is the lover of a married doctor. Her best friend is her neighbour Fifi, who earns her living as a prostitute.


Tuesday, 24 November


7 p.m. Bab el Web, by Merzak Allouache (Algeria / France, 2005), 99 min. Original version with Spanish subtitles.

Kamel and his brother Bouzid live in Bab el Oued, a working-class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Algiers. Their everyday routine is thrown into turmoil when they are unexpectedly visited by a French girl they have met on Internet. A brilliant comedy from one of the classic directors of Algerian cinema.

9 p.m. La battaglia di Algeri, by Gillo Pontecorvo (Algeria / Italy, 1966), 121 min. Original version with Spanish subtitles.

During the Algerian war of Independence, Algiers became the battleground of the independence fighters, who had taken refuge in the Kasbah, and the French army, which still held the colonial city. The film was shot entirely in Algiers and stars Saadi Yacef, one of the leaders of Algeria’s National Liberation Front. The film received the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

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