They say cinema can't change the world. Well, Days of Glory, made by French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb, did.
The 2006 Oscar- nominated film is set in the final years of World War II. It shows the war through the eyes of four North African soldiers who have never set foot in France but they enlist in the French army and fight against the Nazis.
One of them says: I free a country, it's my country even if I've never seen it before. But the promise of liberty and equality that these men sacrifice their lives for turns out to be a chimera.
The French discriminate within their own army. These soldiers don't get leave. They don't even get shoes and must fight in snow wearing sandals. Promises made aren't honoured, bravery isn't rewarded by promotion and even after death, their pensions are much less than those of French soldiers.
Their story is quietly powerful and achingly sad. Days of Glory moved then French president Jacques Chirac so much that he effected change in government policy so that foreign combatant pensions were brought in line with those of French veterans.
Days of Glory is occasionally predictable but Bouchareb exerts precision control and doesn't let the material become melodramatic. He has a keen eye for details.
There is a lovely little scene in which the group's ace marksman is in a French woman's bedroom. He marvels at her clean bed and buries his face in her pillow, not quite believing that anything in the world can be this soft.
The film's war scenes are understated, which makes them even more horrific. War is a grimy, brutal business and Days of Glory refuses to glorify the death and destruction.
Instead the film consistently underlines the irony and tragedy of these men who are dying for a country that treats them as second-class citizens.
The actors, who jointly shared the best acting award at Cannes in 2006, are pitch-perfect. Days of Glory forces you to question the definition of home, patriotism, honor. It's a film that stays with you. Watch it.