France / Algeria, 1969 (MIFF 1971, Programme 31)
Director: Jean-Louis Bertuccelli
An excerpt from Franz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth"' introduces the French-Algerian production Ramparts of Clay, a study of a period of change between fading traditions and economic and social development. In a mountain village in the south of Tunisia shortly after independence, men go on strike when an outside contractor reduces their wages.
Their work consists of breaking up stones for a city firm. The men sit down on the rocks and refuse to move. Soldiers are called in, who form a ring around the strikers, preventing them from joining their families only a few hundred yards away. Food is denied them, then sleep, then peace.
The strike, a recreation of an actual incident, is juxtaposed with the rebellion of Rina, a young girl responding to the call of a new age and to the world beyond the confines of her remote mountain village.
Working with only two professional actors, director Jean-Louis Bertuccelli persuaded the actual inhabitants of a village who had never seen a motion-picture camera before, to re-enact their lives. They do it without a trace of self-consciousness or restraint. Sparse use of dialogue is interspersed with folk chants to maintain a balance between the documentary and the dramatic elements of the story. Rather than polemicise, the film attempts to probe meaning and ask questions, leaving answers for history and the audience to decide.
... Ramparts of Clay is one of the most sophisticated protest films ever made. Like The Battle of Algiers, it is a recreation of an actual incident, recalled in a spirit of quiet fury.
Stefan Kanfer, Time
Fine mood, atmosphere and a classical rigidity give this tale of an event in a backward part of a newly-independent North African country a telling force and a transcendent theme on old ways in conflict with the new...
Technically excellent, and beautifully lensed, sans excess.
Mosk in Variety