They say films change opinions – and a movie released today seems to have proved just that. ‘Indigenes’ is about North African soldiers who fought for France during World War Two. And it so moved French President, Jacques Chirac when he saw a preview, he is raising war pensions for overseas veterans – finally paying them the same as their French peers. The measure, costing the government 110 million euros a year has been welcomed by veterans’ representatives like Cheikh Dem. He says those affected will breathe a big sigh of relief because many have already died so at least those who are still alive will finally receive their due.
Overseas veterans have been campaigning for change since Charles de Gaulle froze their pensions in 1959. Today, French ex-servicemen receive up to 27 times as much as those from former colonies. More than 250,000 soldiers, mainly from North Africa, fought with the Allies during the war. Some 80,000 survivors and widows will benefit from the new measures.
The French government had been studying the pensions issue before the making of Indigenes. But the film, which also highlights the unequal treatment and daily humiliation of North African soldiers, appears to have provided the impetus necessary for words to become actions.