Name Saadi Yacef
Born 20 January 1928, Algiers
Background Having worked in a bakery he joined the Parti du Peuple Algerien (Algerian nationalist party) in 1945. Soon after the group was outlawed and Yacef became one of the leaders of the National Liberation Front during Algeria’s War of Independence. He was captured by French troops on 24 September 1957 and sentenced to death. While on death row he wrote a memoir based on his experiences as a freedom fighter. After being pardoned by Charles de Gaulle in 1958 his memoir, The Battle of Algiers, was published in 1962. Four years later one of the greatest movies of all time was made based on his novel with Yacef producing and playing a character based on his own experiences.
What he’s up to now Touring with the reissue prints of The Battle of Algiers to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release.
What he says about The Battle of Algiers ‘The film has been asleep but now it is awake. It’s amazing that this small film that we made with hardly any action is still giving me an opportunity to tour and speak to the world. It makes me happy because I get to speak about a country that has been forgotten by the world for some years, especially by cinema.’
What he says about his acting role ‘We gave the book to Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo. We met and I told him my story and he wanted me to be on set to make sure that everything that was depicted was as close to the truth as possible. In the end he felt it was just easier to get me to play the part.’
Interesting fact The only professional actor in the film was Jean Martin who played Colonel Mathieu. Ironically, Martin was almost unemployable for a number of years after starring in the film because he publicly condemned France’s actions in Algeria. The film was banned in France for a number of years.
The Battle of Algiers is on selected release in cinemas and on DVD (Argent Films) now.