Zineb Sedira discovered "Les Mains libres" while researching the project Les rêves n'ont pas de titre (Dreams have no titles) for the Venice Biennale, which focuses on activist cinema and co-productions between Algeria, France and Italy. Although this film was often mentioned, more detailed information was scarce. Produced by Casbah Film (which later supported Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers), "Les Mains libres" was shot by Italian filmmaker Ennio Lorenzini in 1964 - only two years after Algeria's independence - and was the first international Algerian production.
As her research progressed, the artist became more and more interested in this film, which had not been seen for 57 years! Some articles in the newspaper "Alger républicain" and in "Cahiers du cinéma" confirmed that the film had been previewed in Algiers at the Cinéma l'Afrique and had been followed by a screening on the fringes of the Cannes Festival in 1965 before disappearing from screens. Several months into her research, a 35 mm print of "Les Mains libres" was found at AAMOD and thanks to the Institut français' partnership with the Cineteca di Bologna for its restoration, Zineb Sedira finally saw the film and incorporated it into her project.
The artist was particularly moved by her discovery, not only of the newly created Algerian state in colour, which was very rare for the time, but also of a multi-faceted nation, far from the simplistic vision created by the French press and army. For the first time, the film allows us to view images that sweep across all of Algeria, bearing witness to the richness of its landscapes and the diversity of its traditions. Using the aesthetics of the militant cinema of the time, "Les Mains libres" features a wealth of archive material from the Algerian war: photos, images and rarely seen press cuttings.
"Les Mains libres" is a discovery, a political and militant testimony on the persistent traces of colonisation and the discussions that ensue when a country gains its freedom.
Restoration financed by the Cineteca di Bologna at the L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with AAMOD - Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico, Casbah Entertainment and the Cinémathèque algérienne. The restoration reduced the red and green halos caused by the misalignment of the Technicolor tapes during printing and restored the original black and white of the archive sequences shot in colour. The Eastmancolor parts of the film, on the other hand, were severely degraded and it was not always possible to restore the original colours during colour grading.
The French Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia 2022 is operated by the Institut français.
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