Algerian cinema between commercial and political pressures: the double distortion

Walid Benkhaled

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Although ‘transnational’ cinema is now a widely-used category in the literature, to understand what ‘transnational’ means we need also to be able to conceptualize the ‘national’. This article argues that ‘Algerian cinema’ no longer exists. Instead, what is today termed ‘Algerian cinema’ often deals with social problems that are in fact French issues transposed into an Algerian context. The article demonstrates how this situation has arisen by examining the funding of films ‘about’ Algeria via the French Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC), the language quotas that such bodies impose and how these funding mechanisms give films a linguistic identity which is often at odds with the sociocultural context of the scenario. It then turns to explore the academic reception of these films and the way in which they are often used as documentary snapshots into contemporary Algeria, with little attention paid to the ways in which they are products of a particular funding context. Finally, it considers how the Algerian state interacts with these ‘Algerian films’ and the political factors at play in the state’s selective instrumentalization of them. It concludes that in both subject matter and academic analyses, ‘Algerian cinema’ is subject to a double distortion, a situation which the term ‘transnational’ does not capture. The paper will refer to the work of film-makers including Merzak Allouache, Nadir Moknèche and Djamila Sahraoui.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-101
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of African Cinemas
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • transnational cinema
  • Djamila Sahraoui
  • Nadir Moknèche
  • Merzak Allouache
  • academic reception
  • language choice
  • film funding
  • France
  • Algeria
  • national cinema


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