Film Review: ‘Concerning Violence’


In answer to what he would do to follow 2011’s multi-layered collage The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Göran Hugo Olsson has settled on the fight against Colonists in Africa by its indigenous people by again raiding the archives of Swedish Television for Concerning Violence (2014). This time he is using as the contextual device the words of Frantz Fanon spoken by Lauryn Hill, from Fanon’s book The Wretched Of The Earth. With a filmed introduction by postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, the film is split into nine chapters that delve into different perspectives on the African uprising that sprung up all over the continent from 1975 onwards.

Frantz Fanon was a Martinique­born Afro­French psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary whose works include: the aforementioned title (which includes an introduction from Jean Paul Sartre) and Black Skin, White Masks. Olsson’s decision to juxtapose passages from The Wretched Of The Earth – read with rhythmical luminous certainty by Hill – with 16mm footage from Swedish Television of various anti­imperialist liberation movements in Africa is inspired and has formal repercussions that reverberate both during the film and for weeks after. We see people fighting with their lives for their and others’ freedom; from a night­time raid with the MPLA in Angola, interviews with the soldiers of FRELIMO in Mozambique, as well as with Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral and other African revolutionaries.

Taking the ethos of Fanon’s statement that “Everything can be explained to the people, on the single condition that you want them to understand”, Concerning Violence attempts to process a particular time and place that allows for the privilege of sitting nearly 40 years hence and being able to find truth, sadness and a superiority that comes from fighting on the side of right. The rhythm of the film works its magic by a warped counterpoint: showing and telling in numerous forms. It probes Christian Missionaries and figures we now look upon with disdain: Robert Mugabe is treated with equal honesty. It is infact disconcerting to listen to Mugabe’s sense of fair purpose and humility and think of the man he has become. Time is given over to some lesser known iconic figures (to some) of leaders like Thomas Sankara. Sankara, when spouting discourse that refused aid and the ‘help’ of The World Bank and the IMF, would not be long for this world but his words continue to inspire and sadden 27 years after his death.

Fanon was a proponent of “cognitive dissonance”, the idea that when people hold a strong core belief and they are presented with evidence that works against those beliefs, they will refuse to accept this new evidence, as it would produce an extremely uncomfortable feeling. Because of the need to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with it. This, on a micro level, is why Concerning Violence needs to be seen by people of the opposed point of view of Fanon. It will leave fault lines that will strike (hopefully) sooner rather than later. For the rest of us, this is a clarion call to remember that history is never quite over, it’s a living breathing organism that refutes the practises and narrative of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and pushes us to think of the here and now. How nothing really changes, problems just arise with answers that new generations need to take and utilise from our combined history.

D.W. Mault | @D_W_Mault

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