Rachida (2002)





Director:  Yamina Bachir. 

Starring:  Ibtissem Djouadi (Rachida), Bahia Rachedi (AVcha), Rachida Messaoui En (Zohra), Hamid Remas (Hassen), Zaki Boulenafed (Khaled), Amel Choukh (La mariÚe), Abdelkader Belmokadem (Mokhtar), Azzedine Bougherra (Tahar).

a look at terrorism in the Algerian civil war in the 1990s through the eyes of Rachida, a teacher in one of the school districts


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Algeria during the civil conflict of the 1990s.  Rachida is a young woman who teaches at the elementary school level.  It is a bad time with lots of acts of terrorism between the sides in conflict.  Younes watches the neighborhood for any sign of trouble.  On the news is a report of a terrorist attack.  In another incident, six soldiers were killed.  A group in the neighborhood is busy manufacturing bombs.  They try to force Rachida to carry a bomb for them to school, but she resists.  With a pistol, one of them shoots her in the stomach.  In the hospital they are able to stitch her up and send her home.  The shooter was one of Rachida's former students.  Her fiancÚ says that it was Rachida's fault because: "I told her to stop working." 

One of the school teachers, Yasmina, takes Rachida and her mother to a safe place, to her house in a small village.  The male villagers start to notice Rachida when she starts to leave the house once in a while.  She gets scared when she sees that one of the guys who tries to help her has a pistol in his belt.  She remarks: "I'm in exile in my own country."  She is very afraid.  In the small village a young man named Khaled pursues a young girl named Hadjar.  The father of Hadjar is upset by this and tells the young man to stay away from his daughter. 

Yasmina brings Rachicda her school transfer so she can teach in the local school.  In the news is the report of monks being assassinated by terrorists.  Rachida is angry about all the cruelty and barbarity in Algeria.  Rachida reports for work and is placed in a classroom.  After work some Muslim fundamentalist women ask her why she is not wearing a head covering.  Rachida wants nothing to do with the ways of the fundamentalists. 

Three guys with pistols stroll through the town.  At the local bar they rough up the customers and smash up the place.  Rachida and her mother try to go to Algiers by taxi, but they have to turn around quickly in order to avoid the roadblocks thrown up by the fundamentalists.  They get to Algiers via another route.  The doctor tells her that she is healing well physically, but that she has a post-traumatic stress disorder.  The doctor tells her to come back in six months.  Rachida is able to se her fiancÚ again.  They go swimming in the ocean. 

Back in the small village the body of a dead man is picked-up and placed in an ambulance.  The widow of the deceased scolds her curious neighbors for not helping her husband when he needed it.  A young girl escapes from the fundamentalists who kidnapped and raped her.  All bloody she runs through the village.  Rachida sees this and becomes upset all over again.  She cries.  The father of the young girl says that he disowns her because she has dishonored his family. 

Hadjar is going to get married.  The kidnapped girl who escaped complains to the other females that she is pregnant and her father still does not want her.  Rachida's mom offers to adopt the expected child.  But on the night of the wedding the fundamentalists carry out a raid on the village.  The father of the bride becomes aware of the danger and warns the attendees to go to their homes.  Panic sets in among the attendees as they hurriedly flee.  The gunmen are killing villagers.  Rachida picks up a baby and hides.  She hears one of the gunmen tell one of the his colleagues: "Save the prettier ones.  They are part of the spoils."  The bride is kidnapped.  The next day, seven bodies covered with linens are laid out in a row.  The village holds a large funeral.  Rachida is back to rocking and staring.  But all of a sudden she seems to snap out of her mental fog.  She listens to her walkman as she walks to school.  Some of her students also walk to school.  Rachida's schoolroom is damaged, but she writes on the blackboard: "Today's Lesson."  She begins her class.  

Good movie.  It's important to read about the historical background.  My wife and I did not read the history in advance and were a bit befuddled in certain parts of the movie.  My wife remarked: "Another movie about terrible events."  Yes, but school teacher Rachida is still able to overcome her pains and fears to carry on her duties as a school teacher in spite of all the terrible injustices she sees and experiences. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

the National Liberation Front (Front de LibÚration Nationale or FLN)

1947  --  in the election a Muslim political party swept to victory. 

1948  --  elections rigged by French colonists to reverse the 1947 election results.

1954-1962  --  the Algerian War of Independence. 

1955 (August)  --  massacre of civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville, after which all-out-war began in Algeria.  (The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas.  The FLN, said that 12,000 Muslims were killed armed forces and police, as well as colon gangs.)

1962 (March 18)  --   a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN.  The FLN has dominated Algerian politics ever since. 

1991 (December)  --  in the first round of the elections the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) is successful.  The army intervened and postponed the second round of elections to prevent the formation of an extremist-led government.  A low-grade civil conflict began between Islamic activists and the government.  The Islamist activists were not allowed in the next elections. 

1994  --  Abdelaziz Bouteflika elected president of Algeria.

mid-1990s  --  the government gained the upper hand.

2000 (January)  --  the Islamic Salvation Army disbanded, but armed militants continued to engage in ambushes and occasional attacks on villages.

2003  --  a group in the southern regions of Algeria kidnapped European tourists. 

2004  --  Bouteflika re-elected. 

2004 (July)  -- Algerian population around 32 million. 

Problems continue: Berber unrest; large-scale unemployment; a housing shortage; and the need to diversify Algeria's petroleum-based economy. 



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