“Zabana!” – when the guillotine falls and a revolution rises.

An absolutely stunning and moving film on the power of both individual and collective will in resistance and liberation movements, with a strong focus on political imprisonment in anti-colonial struggle. This film is less of a history lesson or timeline of the Algerian War for Independence than it is a glimpse into the raw sacrifice that liberation often entails, for those we remember and those we do not.

Ahmed Zabana was the first Algerian martyr to be executed by guillotine (June 1956); after him 222 Algerians followed. His execution helped spark the Battle of Algiers that began a few months later, and a response campaign by the Algerian FLN that launched an entirely new phase of resistance to French colonialism in Algeria.

If you can get a copy of this film or find it online, you should. Not because it is the best film you will ever see, but because if you spend the time it is in front of you actually watching it, it is likely to teach you something about your own struggle, about organizing, about the fragility of any human-led movement, and yes, about courage … in its purest form.


2 thoughts on ““Zabana!” – when the guillotine falls and a revolution rises.

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  1. nourj,

    Zabana is indeed among the most respected of Algeria’s martyrs. Self-scarifice, braveray and patriotism were lessons taught by all them.

    BTW, the Algerian War of Independence started on November 1st, 1954 (we just commemorated it) and not in 1956 as you wrote.

    Here is the last letter Zabana wrote to his parents.

    1. MnarviDZ,

      Thanks for this. This letter is read in a voiceover in Arabic as Zabana is waiting for his execution in the film and writing to his family…a very moving moment indeed.

      And of course you are correct, re: 1954 – in fact, orgnaizing for November 1, 1954 is a central component of the film. I should have been more specific and said the Battle of Algiers, and not the war, began after his execution. I’ll amend the sentence for clarity. Thank you!

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