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Author: Guy Austin

In terms of the so-called 'clash of civilisations' after '9/11', Islamic states such as Algeria have too often been perceived in the West as 'other' and hence as threatening. This book, via an analysis of cinema, provides a discussion on some misunderstandings and assumptions about Algeria, which remains to a large extent underrepresented or misrepresented in the UK media. It is about Algerian national cinema and illuminates the ways in which the official mythologising of a national culture at the 'centre' of the postcolonial state has marginalised the diverse identities within the nation. Tahia ya didou occupies a pivotal position between fiction and documentary, capturing the hectic modernization of the Boumediene era while reflecting back on the aftermath of historical trauma. La Citadelle presents gender differences as culturally engrained and patriarchal power as secure. Youcef, Bab El-Oued City and Rome plutôt que vous present differing visions of how a Freudian melancholia in the shadow of a crushed revolt might relate to Algerian experience after Black October. Lettre à ma soeur listens to the voices of the subaltern; the film is a sense of re-emergence that follows the initial insurgency of Nabila's activism, the trauma of her killing and the subsequent years of silence and self-imposed incarceration.

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Algerian national cinemas
Guy Austin

jaune in the Aurès after attending his father’s funeral there, or Djahnine’s investigation into her sister’s murder in Kabylia, Lettre à ma soeur (2008). The role of family and of local territory is hence important in these films and their motivations. In terms of trauma theory, Cathy Caruth has stressed the importance of ‘a seeing and a listening from the site of trauma ’ (Caruth 2006 : 214, italics in original). For

in Algerian national cinema
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From lost sites to reclaimed images
Guy Austin

politics can be perceived. It emerges from marginalization, repression, and exclusion from community’ (Khanna 2008 : 56). Habiba Djahnine’s recent documentary Lettre à ma soeur (2008) engages with precisely these elements and listens to the voices of those violently excluded from Algerian society: women and feminists targeted in the 1990s. The film sees Habiba return from France to her home region of Kabylia in order to uncover

in Algerian national cinema
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Tradition and taboo
Guy Austin

– although there are exceptions at the end of La Citadelle and in recent films by women such as Rachida (Bachir Chouikh, 2002) and Lettre à ma soeur (Djahnine, 2008) – while the demonization or abuse of adult women is critiqued in La Citadelle, Youcef (Chouikh, 1993), Rachida, Al-Manara and Lettre à ma soeur . The key precursor for female directors such as Yamina Bachir-Chouikh and Habiba Djahnine

in Algerian national cinema
Trauma, history, myth
Guy Austin

and mythologies of the war and present s an Algerian future symbolised – as in later films such as L’Arche du désert (Chouikh, 1997), Rachida (Bachir-Chouikh, 2002) or Lettre à ma soeur (Djahnine, 2008) – by the symbolic figures of children. For Sheikh Ben Badis, ‘wife and children are the bonds that tie patriotic man to his motherland’ (cited in Lazeg 1994: 84). Even in his absence (imprisoned

in Algerian national cinema