Checks and Balances

Algeria | 2015 | 97 minutes | Malek Bensmaïl

Experience firsthand the struggles and triumphs of fiercely independent Algerian newspaper El Watan, whose staff have been targets of attacks from both the government and Islamist insurgents, but who continue to fight for freedom of the press.

Monday, May 30, 2016

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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In Checks and Balances, Algerian documentarian Malek Bensmaïl offers an inspiring and invigorating portrait of the press at work in the form of one of his home country's most vocal anti-establishment newspapers, El Watan. Specifically, the film chronicles the paper's coverage of the recent electoral campaign in which opposition politician Ali Benflis sought to replace Algeria's longest-serving ruler, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose 17-year tenure is widely attributed to his party's control of the country's mass media. (Benflis' previous attempt was also documented by Bensmaïl in his 2004 film The Big Game.) In a manner reminiscent of Page One: Inside the New York Times (SIFF, 2011), Bensmaïl embeds himself within the El Watan newsroom, a fly on the wall to the journalists' arguments large and small over everything from politics and religion to word choice and punctuation, as well as their dedication, camaraderie, and dark humor. Particularly relevant now that journalists accused of damaging "the morale of the nation" face tough new penalties in a crackdown on investigative reporting, Checks and Balances offers thrilling proof that democracy—with all the debate, dissent, and discussion it entails—is alive and well in Algeria . . . in the press at least, if not in the presidency.

Director Biography
Malek Bensmaïl was born in Constantine, Algeria in 1966. All his films relate to the history of his country. His signature cinematography depicts the complex, sensitive contours of humanity. His films have received critical acclaim and have won awards at a number of festivals.

Sponsored by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

  • Original Language Title: Contre-pouvoirs
  • Director: Malek Bensmaïl
  • Principal Cast: Omar Belhouchet, Hacène Ouali, Hassene Moali, Mustapha Benfodil, Ali Benyahia
  • Premiere Status: North American Premiere
  • Country: Algeria, France
  • Year: 2015
  • Running Time: 97 minutes
  • Producer: Hachemi Zertal
  • Screenplay: Malek Bensmaïl
  • Cinematographers: Malek Bensmaïl, Ouadi Guenich
  • Editors: Matthieu Bretaud
  • Music: Camel Zekri, Marboeuf Phil
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: China Is Still Far (2010); Alienations (doc, 2004); Des vacances, malgré tout (doc, 2001)
  • Language: Berber, French, Arabic
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP