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The Betrayal, May 3

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
9:15 p.m. The Betrayal
Philippe Faucon (France/Belgium, 2005)

(La trahison). An understated thriller, The Betrayal traces the fine ethnic lines among French soldiers stationed in Algeria in 1960. At stake is the fate of four Harkis (French soldiers of North African descent) under the command of Lieutenant Roque (Vincent Martinez). A deeply likable, intelligent man, Roque is thrust into the uncomfortable requirements of his position, as he is prodded to make judgments about the character of his men. The soldiers in question occupy an uneasy position between the French unit under which they serve and the hostile Algerian locals with whom they liaise. The locals treat the Harkis as traitors, and the other, white, soldiers treat them with derision. Suspicions about the Harkis increase when a notebook is discovered in camp that appears to reveal the soldiers as double agents. The film's title turns on the many possible interpretations of and questions about the notebook: whether it should be taken as evidence, who has written it, who has betrayed whom. Elegantly, director Philippe Faucon lets the notebook reveal the many underlying tensions amongst the soldiers, locals, and the FLN (Algerian resistance fighters). As questions about its authenticity mount, so do intersections of personal feelings and political beliefs, which radiate out into emotional questions of trust and deftly reveal the codes of racism and cultural distress. With an almost invisible hand, Faucon quietly immerses viewers in an intense, remarkably intelligent and suspenseful drama, where each ambiguity acts as a further turn of the screw.

—Sean Uyehara

• Written by Faucon, Claude Sale. Photographed by Laurent Fenart. With Vincent Martinez, Ahmed Berrhama, Cyril Troley, Walid Bouzham. (81 mins)