It’s spring 2014. The Algerian presidential election is in full swing when documentary filmmaker Malek Bensmaïl gets permission to film the newsrooms of the independent French-language daily El Watan. He encounters a microcosm that, as the hours pass by, increasingly resembles a pressure cooker. With a deadline looming, the editors feverishly seek content and meaning. We listen in on discussions about hot political topics and overt doubts about the country’s established order. El Watan is anything but an extension of the incumbent regime. One of the journalists openly protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fourth term. The wheelchair-bound president rarely appears in public during his presidential campaign. Bouteflika isn’t only a symbol of the country’s political stagnation, but he’s also associated with the aftermath of the violent civil war of the 1990s that cost Algeria 200,000 lives. Below the surface of relative peace, the trauma of the war still rages. Hundreds of journalists were persecuted, murdered or banished at the time. Checks and Balances is a tribute to them and their contemporaries, who fight for freedom of speech and try to convey the reality of Algerian life with their talented, intellectual and humorous writing.
Malek Bensmaïl for Hikayet Films
Hachemi Zertal for Hikayet Films
Magnolias Films, INA