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France, 1976 (MIFF 1978)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

At a small French outpost in West Central Africa, news of the First World War doesn't arrive until six months after the outbreak of hostilities. The Frenchmen decide to attack the neighbouring Germans in another European colony.

Neither side has any military strength the French rely on a sergeant, and the Germans on three soldiers So, they conscript natives into their new armies and compel them to do the fighting.

The French take their wives out for a day's picnic to watch the battle, but they are routed by the fighting. When the battle begins to go badly for the French, a young scientist who is doing research in the colony, takes over and re-organizes the natives.

On both sides the armies are set up and waiting to fight while bad weather drags on and illness reduces the ranks. The scientist assumes the status of a near-dictator, and when he takes an elegant African mistress none of the French protest.

Fighting continues in a travesty of European trench warfare, until an English group appears and announces that the war is over and that they are taking over the German colony. But the French side with the Germans, and the natives — ironically — appear to be fighting on.

Academy Award

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