In 1943, at the height of the Nazi occupation of France, the French government turned to its North African colonies for help in rebuilding its much-depleted army. In "Days," we meet four muslim men who find themselves fighting together in the same unit: Yassir (Naceri), who joins the army for the paycheck; Messaoud (Zem), a sharpshooter with a French lover; Said (Debbouze), an illiterate orderly; and Abdelkader (Bouajila) an intelligent corporal who rebels against the unequal treatment afforded his Muslim comrades. Though they battle bravely through Italy, France and finally into Alsace, these soldiers discover their most difficult opponent may well be the ingrained racism of the Frenchmen fighting beside them.
Like a North African version of "Glory," this Academy Award-nominee for Best Foreign Language Film shines a harsh light on a nearly-forgotten chapter of history. The outstanding performances of this ensemble were collectively awarded the Best Actor prize at Cannes that year. Even more impressive, the film inspired a real-life happy ending: after its release, the French government finally reformed its pension policies towards fighters from former colonies. Bouchareb's gripping, gut-wrenching war drama stands shoulder-to-shoulder with better-known contemporary war classics like "Saving Private Ryan."