France forced to face uncomfortable truth about ignored colonial soldiers

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Few films in the history of cinema can claim to have had a direct impact on the real world. A movie showing in France has managed to repair a half-century of injustice even before it appeared on general release.

Indigènes tells the largely concealed story of the 300,000 Arab and north African soldiers who helped to liberate France in 1944.

In one respect, the film has already succeeded where years of complaints have failed. Last week, just before it reached the cinema, the French government was shamed into paying belated full pensions to 80,000 surviving ex-colonial soldiers who, since 1959, have been paid a fraction of what French veterans receive.

The movie has more ambitious, political aims. Its director, Rachid Bouchareb, and its co-producer, Jamel Debbouze, hope that it will be an important turning point in race relations in France. It is a big hope.

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