The Italian Almanac

Gillo Pontecorvo

Italian News - October 14

The international film world is mourning Gillo Pontecorvo, Italian director of one of the most provocative films on freedom fighting, The Battle of Algiers. "I have lost a brother," said the Algerian independence hero and film producer Saadi Yacef in a tearful phone interview with ANSA before rushing to Rome to be with Pontecorvo's wife and three children.

Cannes Film Festival chief Gilles Jacob said it was "striking" that Pontecorvo died Thursday night on the eve of the new Rome Film Festival, "which he would have loved". The Rome fest said Friday it would commemorate Pontecorvo with a series of events including a special screening of The Battle of Algiers.

Another giant of political cinema, Costa Gavras of Z, Missing and Amen fame, said he would pay tribute to his great colleague at next week's premiere in Rome of a French film he wrote which has been compared to 'Algiers', Mon Colonel. Venice Film Festival Chairman Davide Croff praised Pontecorvo's term as fest chief from 1992-1996, saying he had "brought back stars to the Lido and so many movie-makers who were friends of his".

"Impassioned and dynamic, he was loved by everyone," Croff added, stressing that Pontecorvo set up a forum for European film-makers to preserve their cultural identity. In a statement, the Festival highlighted that Steven Spielberg, receiving a career Golden Lion in 1993, presented Pontecorvo with the Golden lion for 'Algiers' he had auctioned off for charity years before.

Pontecorvo, who would have been 87 on November 19, made two other landmark political films: Kapo' (1960), in which he was the first to highlight the sado-masochistic ties that could exist between concentration camp victims and their persecutors; and Ogro (1979), a graphic depiction of Basque terrorists' asssination of a Franco-era Spanish premier which was widely taken as a metaphoral exploration of the kidnapping and assassination of Italian leader Aldo Moro the year before.