Days of Glory
Days of Glory is a 2006 war film directed by Rachid Bouchareb that follows the story of several African soldiers in World War II who have been recruited by the French to aid in the liberation from Nazi occupation. The film focuses not only on the mistreatment of these soldiers during and after the war, but also on the courageous accomplishments of said soldiers. The film won awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, and was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar at the Academy Awards. Additionally, the film has been attributed with the change in policy regarding pensions of North African soldiers enlisted by the French. But, although current pensions have been brought to the standard level, arrears have not been considered, meaning over 40 years of lost pensions have yet to be recovered by these veterans.
Prior to Days of Glory, Rachid Bouchareb had directed several lower-budget films that received little attention, other than Little Senegal (his film directly prior to this). Although low-budget by Hollywood standards, Days of Glory had an extremely high budget for a film by French standards, and higher than anything Rachid Bouchareb had done up to this point. Finding financing for a film of this size and scope was no easy task. But, alleviating this financial stress was actor Jamel Debbouze. Jamel, being the famous actor he is, was able to ensure “star power” for financiers. Development itself for the film was lengthy. The screenplay took two and a half years to develop, and required a year of intense research for historical accuracy. Then, storyboarding itself took four months. Filming itself took 18 weeks to complete, and spanned across multiple countries. The film was epic in scale, consisting of 500 extras and 220 technicians. But, even though the scale of this film was enormous, the number of takes was low (only about 3-4 per scene). This shows that production was smooth, once it began. It also doesn’t appear that Bouchareb had issues with actors or anything of that sort, although it is interesting to note that Jamel lost a hand when he was very young, and thus keeps it in his pocket throughout the film. This last point is interesting to me because I found this very unobtrusive, rarely noticing it until later in the film. But, it appears that (according to the IMDB.com boards on the film) many were distracted by this fact, and found it unrealistic that the French would take a soldier with only one hand. I believe this is a testament to the reality of the film, as the French were desperate for enlistees to the point where they would take a man with a disability. The film was purposely made to be similar to other war films, such as Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line in order to garner a wider audience. It seems like Bouchareb is more interested in exposing this forgotten and covered-up history than presenting a new aesthetic and artful form of cinema. Although the shots and composition can be rather “hollywood” at time, it is clear this was intentional (and successful) for reaching a broad audience.
Days of Glory is not only an interesting and entertaining war film: Days of Glory exposes the truth of forgotten and ignored soldiers. It begs for policy changes and reprimands, and hopefully, someday, it will be granted this wish. I only hope it is not so distant in the future that it will be far too late to help those still living from this terrible war.