Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, an Algerian film director, producer, and screenwriter active mostly from the 60s to the 80s, is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary Arabic cinema. He is most famous for his 1975 film Chronicles of the Years of Embers, which offers a personal vision of the Algerian revolution and traces the evolution of the revolutionary movement from 1939 until the beginnings of the 1954 insurrection against the French.
At the time of his birth (26 February 1934) Algeria was under the French colonial rule. He left the French army in 1958 and joined the anti-French Algerian resistance in Tunisia, where he worked for the provisional Algerian government (which was in exile). Although his interest in films had arisen at the Lycée Carnot in Cannes (France), the roots of his film career can be traced back to the time after he joined the Algerian Maquis (guerrilla). In 1959, he was sent by the Algerian National Liberation Front to Prague, where he pursued his cinematography studies at the cinema school Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts, the Czech academy for cinema and television. However, he left to work for Barrandov Studios. Along with two other people, he was soon commissioned by the Algerian government (in exile) to create a documentary on Algeria's predicament under French colonialism. He collaborated with one of these two, Chanderli, in later films as well. He returned to Algeria in 1962 upon its independence, and worked together with his colleagues from Tunisian exile. He founded the Office des actualités algériennes, of which he was director from 1963 until its dissolution in 1974. From 1981 to 1984 he acted as director of the Office National pour le Commerce et l'Industrie Cinématographique.
Lakhdar-Hamina's films, although sharing themes of other Algerian cinemas such as the Algerian war of independence and postcolonial nation-building stage, were notably distinct from the filmic experiences of other Arab countries. His earlier films explore issues of national identity and search for the Self in context of postcolonial emancipation. His first feature was released in 1965, titled The Winds of the Aures. It may be considered in its own right the foundational stone of contemporary Algeria cinema. His most famous film Chronicle of the Years of Embers remains the only African and Arab film to have been awarded the Golden Palm at Cannes, to date. One of the primary ideas at the centre of the movie was that, just as violence begets more violence, colonialism can only be won over through a violent uprising. Chronicle employs camera techniques that emphasize feelings of 'uprootedness', deprivation, and suffering caused by a colonial system of exploitation. The prominence of the peasant world in most of Lakhdar-Hamina's filmography seems to consecrate rural life as one of the most important scenarios in the construction of national identity. This cinematographic style however was eventually transformed during the 1980s, when Algerian cinema became more concerned with urban characters and focused on the crisis of postcolonial conflicts.
Mais un jour de novembre (1964)
Le Vent des Aurès [The Winds of the Aures] (1966)
Hassen Terro (1968)
Chronicle of the Years of Embers (1975)
Sand Storm [Vent de Sable] (1982)
The Last Image [La Dernière Image] (1986)
The Winds of the Aures: Best First Work Award at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival
Chronicles of the Years of Embers: Palme d'Or at Cannes