Days of Glory AKA Indigenes
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th July 2007).
The Film

Most new war films will eventually be compared, the genre's been around as long as film itself and there are many solid entries to pick. In this particular case "Days of Glory" has been called the French "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) and aside from the fact that it takes place during World War II and that a small unit puts up a brave battle against a lot of Germans in a French village the similarities pretty much stop there. There are however few staples of the genre that are unavoidable such as the depiction of 'brotherhood' amid men in arms, the message of the tragedy of war, etc, etc. But "Days of Glory" manages to stand on its own, mainly as a political statement on the treatment of French North African troops. In fact it's a topic forgotten in modern France, or rather ignored. Some films have tried to shed light on the social atmosphere especially in the tension and racisms towards Muslim/North African French, an excellent example is Mathieu Kassovitz's riveting "La Haine" (1995). Rachid Bouchareb goes further back in time to tell his story; set amid a devastated defeat the French rebuild their forces in an effort to liberate their country. Soldiers are gathered from far and wide, territories under French control such as Morocco and Algeria. Said (Jamel Debbouze), Yassir (Samy Naceri), Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) and Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), young men enlist to see victory for France under the command of Sergeant Roger Martinez (Bernard Blancan). Throughout their tour of duty they are continually pushed back, not given the respect they deserve, get little to no rest compared to white French and are often last to receive commendations or promotions in rank. Yet they continue to fight for the cause, sometimes blindly patriotic.
From the outset the film exudes a well crafted feeling, especially in regards to its script, carrying over a campaign lasting a few years and covering a large portion of the lives of the people portrayed. The film's structure is set out to continually move from enlisting to one battle after the next and all the while the undercurrent themes slowly rise to the surface. The themes of racism and inequality towards the North African soldiers despite the fact they fought just has hard as the native French soldiers. The film's dialogue is given further strength from the fine ensemble cast that populate each frame, each cast member's input adds rich layers to the film with their individualistic and often moving portrayals of the characters. It can be hard to stand out amid a war film, with action and thriller elements sometimes taking the limelight but in this film it's all about the cast, their interactions with one another and the solidity of their delivery. As a result one can't isolate a single player as being the best in the film; rather it's a group effort.
I was slightly disappointed in the fact that solider motivations in enlisting were not examined on a deeper level, instead a throwaway scene was included that establishes money as being the primary reason for fighting for the French, yet in almost every battle scene they cry out for the victory of a nation that has caused their people much heartache, that is a pill I found a little difficult to swallow and I'm sure there are other motives that could have been examined which would have made the pill less hard to swallow. Other than that it's an excellent film that is compromised with good scripting, casting and direction, on a technical level the photography lends a vintage feel that accents the time period. "Days of Glory" earned its Oscar nomination in the category of "Best Foreign Language Film" and it also deservers to be given a spin in your DVD player as I highly recommend it.

Video

Presented in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, this anamorphic transfer is a solid effort and displays colors accurately to how the filmmaker's envisioned the film. Taking on a yellow-ish desaturated vintage feel, the image is generally sharp and well balanced, backs are bold but lack depth and aren't as deep as they could have been, some minor noise can be seen amid them but aside from that and incidental moire patterns appearing I could not find any major compression related problems. Overall it's a fine transfer that presents the film cleanly and accurately.

Audio

A single audio track is include and is presented in Arabic/French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Being a war film the track is very active when it needs to be and also very subtle in other parts of the film. The sounds feel natural and nothing seems out of place especially in the battle scenes, additionally dialogue is clean and distortion free. The overall mix displays a broad range and exhibits depth amid its busiest scenes and makes for a perfect accompaniment to the solid visuals.
Optional subtitles are also included in both English and Spanish.

Extras

First up we have "The Making of Indigenes", a featurette that runs for 24 minutes 28 seconds, this clip delves into the production process from the importance of telling the story and also what attracted the cast to the story as well as takes a closer look at training and shooting in Morocco as well as the support the Government of Morocco gave the filmmakers. The cast comment on their characters and the themes and message of the film. This clip is not a typical EPK, it actually sheds light on the production rather than how great everyone working on it is.

Next up is an animated short film entitled "The Colonial Friend" and is also from director Rachid Bouchareb and runs for 8 minutes 46 seconds. This film is animated in a rough pencil sketch fashion and tells the story of the Senegalese soldiers that fought for France, the same themes are echoed in "Days of Glory".

Rounding out the extras are some bonus trailers for:

- "Thethruth.com" spot which runs for 1 minute.
- "After the Wedding" which runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- "Nomad the Warrior" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "Hannibal Rising" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "Bobby" which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

The lack of extras is rather disappointing for this release considering the French Region 2 'Collector's Edition' release is packed with supplements, it would have added to the value of this release had Genius and the Weinstein Company licensed some of those extras.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: C+ Overall: B+

 


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