If we adopt the definition of independent film that says it depends on escaping production restrictions and commercial distribution by using other more modest means, as well as departing from the norms of artistic creativity, we can say that Algeria is a special case.
Following the impressive start of the young post-independence Algerian cinema and the setback of the 1990s, the last ten years can be considered a second starting point.
Almost all films produced, even those that benefited from state funding, were made with additional financial support found by the directors and producers.
As support was often used to activate cultural life, and not to follow the logic of the market, we can say that these films have created some kind of independent cinema because the majority can be considered cinema d’auteur. As such they are subject to the personal preferences of each director, far from the general style of art – especially so in the absence of a commercial cinema and distribution market. There has been a wave of movie theatre restorations (there were about 400 during the 1960s but many had been abandoned or their scope of activity changed) and while these feature length and short films are shown in restored theatres in major cities, they particularly have a public at festivals and on television.
I have chosen a selection of short films that reflect the dynamics animated by this new generation. This diversity of films – that have either received funding or been produced by private means – reflects a younger generation that represents Algeria and deals with the Algerian reality in new ways. The second common denominator in this group is that they are all self-made and resident in Algeria, so it is a sample of young artists in today’s Algeria with all the implications and realities of current developments and the accumulated past.
In making this choice, I am not denying that the films of young Algerians who reside abroad and film in Algeria reflect and effectively address Algerian reality, as they win the admiration of observers inside and outside the country. We can list notably Masquerades by Lyes Salem and In Land by Tarik Tegia.
Despite the fact that many Algerian filmmakers are living abroad, the majority reside in Southern Europe and especially France, as the proximity helps them to not feel isolated from the reality of the motherland.
Part of the new generation of young filmmakers in Algeria and in the Arab world, Mounes Khammar comes from a communications background and moved into cinema during the rebirth of the film scene after the “black decade.” He worked as an assistant director and producer on the following films: Rêve algérien by Jean-Pierre Lledo (2003), Viva l’Algérie (2004) by Nadir Mokneche, Les suspects by Kamal Dahane (2004), Morituri by Okacha Tonita (2004), and Écrit by Yasmina Khadra (2006). In 2003, he directed his first experimental short film N’rouhou, which was selected and awarded prizes at several international film festivals. In 2004, he was chosen by FEMIS to take part in their international workshop and he then created Saphina, the first production company to be run by a young filmmaker in Algeria. The same year, he was in charge of the location management for the film crew La Trahison by Philippe Faucon. This was the first feature film shot entirely in Algeria for 30 years. He was also associate producer of the film. In 2005, he co-produced in partnership with Les films Pélléas a documentary by Cyril Leuthy called La nuit s’achève. Following this, he produced several short films by the new wave of Algerian filmmakers such as Yaniss Koussim and Khaled Benaissa. In 2007, he was producer and artistic director for of the first Algerian film in HD, Houria, which starred several well-known artists. That movie was the most awarded film of the year. In addition, he was production director of the documentary show El Gusto by Saphinez Bousbia which had Damon Alban (Blur/Gorillaz) as guest star. In 2008, he continued to work on many professional and personal projects such as Like a Bee (Comme une abeille) which he made using a minimalistic approach (video camera and mobile phone). He is currently writing his first feature film.