Skip to content

‘Tirailleurs’: Movie Honors the African Soldiers France Tried to Forget

Enjoying huge box-office success, a new film called ‘Tirailleurs’ is focusing new attention on the often-overlooked story of African soldiers who were conscripted to fight the battles of their colonial overlords. Set during the period of World War I, in which 30,000 African conscripts were killed, the film stars France’s Omar Sy as a Senegalese father, who voluntarily signs on to fight so as to protect his son, who was forcefully made to join the ranks. By telling the story through a fictionalized filial relationship and locating the initial part of the movie in Senegal, Vadepied, the director, contrives to personalize the war’s horror for the African conscripts. Their flailing attempts to adjust to the unimaginable are palpable and poignant.