The film has attracted controversy in respect of historical accuracy, with accusations that it portrays the French as the villains, while likening the Algerians to the Resistance during the War.
We are next introduced to the three brothers, Messaoud, Abdelkader and Saïd, at a parade in the Algerian town of Sétif. This was on the morning of 8 May 1945, the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered. The film depicts the French forces opening fire on the marchers, the impression given that it was French aggression, while historical reports are more equivocal, indicating that there was aggression on both sides. Whatever the truth, it is acknowledged that this event was a turning point in Franco-Algerian relations, leading to the Algerian War of 1954-1962. In February 2005 the French ambassador to Algeria formally apologised for the massacre, referring to it as an "inexcusable tragedy".
We follow the lives of the three brothers as Abdelkader and Messaoud become deeply invloved with the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), while Saïd follows a different path, training up a young Algerian, who is a natural fighter, with the hope that he will become the French champion. Ultimately, however, as the FLN attacks lead to fierce reprisals from the French security forces, all three brothers are identified as enemies of the state.