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‘Zabana!’ to carry Algeria Oscar hopes

Ould-Khelifa pic marks 50 years of independence

JOHANNESBURG — Algeria has selected Said Ould-Khelifa’s “Zabana!” in the race for a nomination in the Oscar foreign-language film category.

The selection, announced by culture minister Khalida Toumi, comes with high hopes that the pic will follow on the heels of the country’s last selection, Rachid Bouchareb’s “Outside the Law,” which earned a nomination in 2010.

Released on the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France, “Zabana!” focuses on the life of Ahmed Zabana, a 30-year-old nationalist who became a hero to the independence movement after being executed by the French colonial authorities in 1956.

The execution came just six months before the Battle of Algiers, which set in motion the events that would lead to the country’s independence.

Through family interviews and extensive archival research, Ould-Khelifa and writer Azzedine Mihoubi have painstakingly recreated the militant’s life, as well as the early days of the Front de Liberation Nationale — the revolutionary group that led the war against France.

Ould-Khelifa’s fourth feature, “Zabana!” was produced by Laith Media, with support from the Ministry of Veterans and the Algerian Agency for Cultural Influence, and was picked up by Loic Magneron’s Wide Management for worldwide sales after a strong showing in Toronto.

The deadline for all countries to send in their submissions is Oct. 1.

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