Henri Alleg, who published Algeria’s one truly independent newspaper during French colonial rule, is a fascinating figure, but “An Algerian Dream” doesn’t do him justice. Dragging on like a interminable home movie, Jean-Pierre Lledo’s docu follows the aged Alleg around contemporary Algeria as he meets old friends and relives the past. There are interesting memories here, but they badly need tighter editing to reach beyond French TV auds.
Born into an English Jewish family as Harry Salem, Alleg became a naturalized French citizen and traveled the world before moving to Algiers in the ’40s. The famine, disease and miners’ strikes he witnessed fed his Marxist ideas, and from 1950-55 he was editor-in-chief of the widely read (and censored) anti-colonialist daily Alger Republicain. Imprisoned and tortured by the French army, he revealed their use of torture in his book “La question,” published in 1958 at the height of Algeria’s war for independence. A chipper, kind-hearted, intelligent fellow, Alleg makes a wonderful documentary subject. Seen through his eyes, Algerian history comes alive in an unusual way. The current sad state of the country is viewed as a betrayal of a multi-ethnic dream.