Obit: Yacef Saadi, Abimael Guzman

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Yacef Saadi, military commander of the FLN’s Algiers Autonomous Zone during the Battle of Algiers, has died age 93.

This went almost unreported in English language media, so French language link. https://information.tv5monde.com/afrique/algerie-dernier-hommage-yacef-saadi-figure-emblematique-de-la-bataille-d-alger-423953

Saadi’s name would likely be lost to history if he had not made a place for it by bringing Gillo Pontecorvo’s film on the Battle of Algiers into the world.

Pontecorvo couldn’t get money for the project in Italy, so when he was approached in 1964 by Yacef Saadi, who was the director of the Casbah Film Company – Algeria’s first and only film production company – with an offer of money and logistical cooperation, they set to work. Saadi altered the script significantly several times during the process, and gave himself the major role of Djafar in the film – that is, he plays himself in the movie, though under another name. Pontecorvo put up with this because Saadi’s political connections with the Algerian government allowed them to film in Algiers and the Casbah zone itself, for five months in 1965. President Houari Bomedienne, who had recently taken power from Ahmed Ben Bella in a coup d’etat, made sure the film got all the necessary permissions, and loaned both troops and equipment from the Algerian Army for crowd scenes (which explains the jarring appearance of a Soviet SU-100 assault gun in the riot scene near the end of the film).

Yacef Saadi did not only rewrite the film, he rewrote the role he played in its subject. Towards the end of the Battle of Algiers a tip from a double agent led the French to Yacef Saadi’s hideout, where he was discovered with Zohra Drif, one of the women who had set bombs in the milk bar attack. Both of them talked freely, without physical coercion, and were kept prisoner until the end of the war in 1962. At the beginning of the film you see a frightened man who has just been tortured into giving up the location of Ali-la-Pointe, the last leader of the FLN in Algiers. This man never existed. In fact, it was Yacef Saadi himself who led the French paras to the hideout, because the real life equivalent of “Little Omar” in the movie was Saadi’s nephew, working as an errand boy for Ali-La-Pointe, and the boy’s mother had appealed to him to save his life.

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In other news, Abimael Guzman, leader of the Sendero Luminoso movement in Peru, has died in prison aged 86.

He had been in solitary confinement more or less continuously since his capture in 1992; I was a bit surprised he lasted this long.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49110427

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

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