Bab el-Oued City, Merzak Allouache, 91’, France / Algeria / Germany / Switzerland, ZDF 13.6.1994, OV with German subtitles

In 1993, when Merzak Allouache is filming in the Bab el-Oued City neighbourhood of Algiers, Algeria is at the onset of a bleak decade during which the state secret service and fundamentalist Islamic groups are engaged in a bitter war at the expense of the civilian population. Nonetheless, through the story of Boualem the baker, who rips out the muezzin’s loudspeaker and dumps it into the sea because he can’t sleep, Alloauche takes a close look at the neighbourhood where he was born. Boualem is mercilessly hunted by fundamentalists, just as the director who has to flee again to France shortly thereafter. And yet he takes the time to portray his characters lovingly and with complexity. “The film, which was shot under precarious conditions, thereby reveals the causes of the political standoff in Algeria,” says the EZEF distribution text, “and with it an important correction is made to the one-sided reporting of much of the mass media on the threat posed by Islam.“

Merzak Allouache (*1944) is one of Algeria’s best-known filmmakers post-independence. In 2013, the magazine Variety named him Middle East Filmmaker of the Year. His feature films, which were largely shot in Algeria and North Africa, have been screened in Berlin, Cannes and Venice and won several awards. In cooperation with Das kleine Fernsehspiel, he made his debut film Omar Gatlato (1978) and later Bab el-Oued City (1994), after which he was forced to live and work temporarily in France due to the political situation in Algeria.