IT was banned in France for five years after its release in 1966. In the US, meanwhile, it’s said that the Department of Defence saw it as a textbook depiction of how to “win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas”.

So telling did the Americans find its sobering message that they even made a special screening of it in 2003 for some of their military commanders facing similar challenges in occupied Iraq.

I’m speaking of The Battle Of Algiers, a historical war film that to this day is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest movies ever made and certainly one of my own all-time favourite cinematic experiences.

Co-written and directed by the Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, it’s a film from which our troubled world could still learn much.

To avoid spoiling it for those who have never been swept up in its powerful storyline, suffice to say it’s a dramatic fictional account based on real events in the Algerian capital at the height of the independence struggle there from 1954 to 1962 against the colonialist French occupying forces.

Gripping and dramatic by turns, it resonates on so many levels, from questions over the use of terror and torture to what drives a people’s struggle for independence.

I can’t help thinking that now is as good a time as any to re-watch this remarkable film given events unfolding in Algeria these past weeks.

For in many ways what the world has been witnessing there is the beginning of the end of that political generation central to opposing French rule.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is the most obvious of these, a man who cut his teeth in the war of liberation against a French occupation that was perhaps one of the most brutal colonial enterprises of the modern era.

To left-wing revolutionaries, Bouteflika was the man who subsequently welcomed the icons of their struggle to his country.

From Che Guevara to Nelson Mandela to Yasser Arafat, they could always rely on Algeria for training, funding and support.

Indeed, it’s been said that Algeria’s revolutionary war against France, as depicted in The Battle Of Algiers, inspired the African National Congress’s struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

But like so many political revolutionaries of his time, Bouteflika has long since failed to recognise that change means different things to different generations.

Having suffered a stroke in 2013, he made his last known speech a year later and was rarely seen in public until the spotlight fell on him again this past week.

Right up until that very last moment he was still preparing – with the help of his inner circle – to contest an unbelievable fifth term as president, until Algerians took to the streets and he resigned.

On the face of it, his departure might appear to draw a close on the political era from which he emerged. But look more closely and so many of his old guard still wait in the wings to replace him.

Even as Bouteflika tendered his resignation this week, there beside him was Abdelkader Bensalah, a long-time loyalist to the president and a senior establishment figure that might well have his eyes on the country’s leadership.

The National: Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika had been preparing to stand for a fifth presidential term when protests forced him to step downAlgeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika had been preparing to stand for a fifth presidential term when protests forced him to step down

Then there is Liamine Zeroual, another member of the ancien regime and Algeria’s president from 1994-99, whom initial reports suggested had been asked to lead the transitional government.

Indeed, look around all those hovering in Algeria’s political wings right now, not to mention the all-powerful army headed by Lt Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah, and the same ruling elite dominated by business tycoons and veteran fighters of the 1954-62 independence war with France are very much in the frame.

So far, those ordinary Algerians on the streets have pursued their “revolution of smiles” in a peaceful and orderly way, but should the elites seek to stand in the way of the desire many citizens have for a root-and-branch transformation of their system of government, then the future could take a turn for the worse.

One must be careful in drawing comparisons with the Arab Spring uprisings, but there’s little doubt that such thoughts must weigh heavily on the minds of many Algerians, a country that borders Tunisia where those tumultuous events were first sparked back in 2011.

The National: Algerian army chief Lt Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah had called for the president to be declared unfit for officeAlgerian army chief Lt Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah had called for the president to be declared unfit for office

The success of the protesters so far owes much to their ability to rally around a common cause in removing Bouteflika. It also says much about the existence of a relatively healthy civil society in Algeria allowing people to take precautions that militate against their hopes turning into nightmares as happened during the Arab Spring.

At the same time, Algeria’s protests show that the legacy of those uprisings have not yet run their course. Those hopes that sprung from that moment have not been consigned to history but remain current and remind regimes such as those in Cairo and Khartoum that the desire for change remains.

If there is one worrying parallel with the Arab Spring in Algeria’s protests, it’s that they lack any obvious leader.

The mostly young protesters are a movement with no formal organisation, no recognisable representatives. This was a fatal flaw of the Arab Spring in that it meant its supporters had nobody to negotiate a transition to a more democratic system or to manage the protesters’ expectations.

For now at least, in the short term, it’s probably a fair guess that Bouteflika’s hand will continue to be felt. But the inescapable fact remains that the interim government is already seen as his creature, and as such it’s hard to see it being tolerated.

Perhaps the other most pressing question in the days ahead is how far Algeria’s military is likely to let the protesters go in their demand for an overhaul of the government and “system”.

If those on the streets choose to take up the now famous Arab Spring rallying cry of “Al-shaab yurid isqat al-nizam!” – “the people want to topple the regime” – then the political climate could well deteriorate rapidly with dangerous implications.

As the film Battle Of Algiers so vividly recounts, Algeria’s independence was achieved and secured by the actions of a generation of anti-colonial leaders who worked and fought together to make that freedom happen.

A new generation is now fighting for its own freedoms. One can only hope they achieve it without the spilling of yet more blood.