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October 17, 1961, April 24

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Monday, April 24, 2006
7:00 p.m. October 17, 1961
Alain Tasma (France, 2005)

(Nuit noir, 17 Octobre 1961). One of contemporary Europe's darkest moments—the still-uninvestigated 1961 massacre of Algerian protesters in Paris—is meticulously reconstructed in director Alain Tasma's docudrama, a France-set counterpoint to Gillo Pontecorvo's legendary Battle of Algiers (1965). "The night that never existed," October 17, 1961, was left out of French history books for over forty years. As the Algerian war came to its conclusion, the main Algerian nationalist group organized a massive demonstration in Paris against police repression and a local curfew; the chief of the Paris police (a man currently imprisoned for Vichy-era war crimes) responded by ordering a brutal crackdown. By the time the evening had ended, over 11,000 people had been imprisoned, and hundreds of protesters had been killed. A portrait of one night in France's history, October 17, 1961 also serves as a window into the fissures that divide Europe today: between North African and European, immigrant and native, repression and assimilation. Inspired by the fiction/documentary blends of such socially committed British filmmakers as Alan Clarke and Ken Loach, and by the incendiary force of Battle of Algiers, director Alain Tasma reimagines an event that has been shamefully ignored in France's textbooks, but whose scars still linger. "Thanks to the possibilities that fiction brings," notes the screenwriter Patrick Rotman, "we have been able to dive into the past and to construct a narrative of many voices in which each character, be they an Algerian or a police officer, defends their own truth. Now it is up to the viewer to construct their own."

• Written by Patrick Rotman, François-Olivier Rousseau, Tasma. Photographed by Roger Dorieux. With Clotilde Courau, Thierry Fortineau, Jean-Michel Portal, Ouassini Embarek. (106 mins)