Concerning Violence

Directed by Göran Olsson

Starring Lauryn Hill

Concerning Violence is based on newly discovered, powerful archival material documenting the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the Third World, accompanied by classic text from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.

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  • ★★★★ review by matt lynch on Letterboxd

    Jolting, essential. Not merely blindly advocating a coup of fire against fire but fully aware of the potential costs of the last remaining tool against a power that only responds to force.

  • ★★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd

    An absolutely essential piece of cinema that needs to be seen by all. Introducing the film, let alone Frantz Fanon's text into the Western curriculum would be a start. Goran Olsson, director of The Black Power Mixtape, bolts together a vital reminder of the crushed spirits and abused cultures that have created modern Europe, a murderous timeline that has done its best to ruin a continent still feared today.

    That being Africa, the heart of civilisation and a soul troubled by years of colonisation and pillaging of its resources that continues on to this day. The West, so heavily reliant and enriched by this 'arrangement' has become so accustomed to it, that any meaningful effort to actually stop the robbery from the continent is non-existent. The film is based heavily on Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, the first chapter of which is entitled Concerning Violence, from which we are given nine examples of independence movements in Africa, shot by Swedish filmmakers around fifty years ago.

    The five minute preface, dryly spoken by Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, provides some context to what follows and lays out the documentary's clear academic format. Large white font spells out a majority of Fanon's words spoken by Lauryn Hill. These are set across interview footage that unapologetically serves as a chilling reminder of the superiority white Europeans have comforted themselves with for centuries. Hill provides the voiceover with a textured delivery, measuring the rhythm and meaning of the text, punching out each line to maximum effect.

    A simplistic overview of Fanon's philosophy is that in order to achieve decolonisation, violence is effectively the only solution to achieve freedom of self and for the country. That in order for the people to find a purpose to their lives - after a lifetime and beyond of being told they are subhuman - that fighting for a higher cause reinstates a feeling of worth robbed from them by their white oppressors. This tragic, aggressive reaction is all the poor are left with when all alternative options have been stolen from them.

    The point is succinctly made that Nazi Germany effectively turned the majority of Europe into one vast colony under its rule. Once the war was over, reparations were demanded by the victors. All the treasures and pieces of art stolen were to be returned, the Allied forces receiving payments as compensation for the physical, mental and moral destruction caused. Yet what has been offered to the devastated cultures spread across the African continent? Even beginning to list the damage caused by the colonisers across centuries seems a pointless exercise. There is no meaningful way to describe the sickening carnage created by Europe and its systematic dismantling of the African continent.

    Fanon said that Europeans need to realise the debt owed to Africa and African people the debt owed to them. The very idea of which is way beyond the comprehension of most people, that the privileges we so freely enjoy are related to the suffering of others. Let alone trawling back through centuries and destabilising the power Europe has ensured it will maintain at all costs. Black people aren't abused to their faces anymore so racism no longer exists, seems to be the message. Violent police shootings are merely on-the-job mistakes. The anti-immigration stance growing across Europe is reasonable control apparently.

    Watching this old footage, seen under the shadow of such stark imperialism, will strike hard at even the most hardened souls. There is no violence shown throughout but hearing the text spoken with such clarity over this archival material, illustrates the deep psychological scars that last far longer than any blood spilt. If you are not afraid to explore your intellect, along with re-examining your own understanding of history, then this needs to be seen.

  • ★★★★½ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd

    Rich, disturbing, unapologetically academic, Göran Olsson's Concerning Violence is a blistering manifesto, drawn from the writings of Frantz Fanon, which posits that the only way to take down the insidious brutality of colonialism is by meeting it with similarly brutal violence.

    Olsson doesn't need to do much persuading. I'm sure we are all really nice one on one but, white people, as a collective, historically, we've been pretty fucked and Olsson throws our past back in our faces. He overlays Fanon's poetic polemic on nine decolonization struggles of the '50s and '60s using contemporary footage and disturbingly forthright interviews. The images are mind-burning, the words sickening, and their potency hasn't lessened with distance.

    Fanon's intent, and Olsson's invocation of it, also burns just as intensely. Concerning Violence sets the ideas on the screen simply. Fanon's words are read by Lauryn Hill. Fanon's words filter across the screen in large white type. Fanon's words are illustrated with juxtaposed imagery and the ideas are left to encroach into our current experience. Though the major colonising powers have disbanded for the most part, the brunt of their force is still being felt throughout the developing world via the capitalist conglomerate corporations determined to pull the worth out of the earth for the profit of the few at the expense of the many.

    A dark cinematic essay, which is unfortunately, still very timely.

  • ★★★½ review by Kenji Fujishima on Letterboxd

    Academic but in a genuinely illuminating way, my Slant Magazine review of Göran Hugo Olsson's latest documentary is here.

  • ★★★½ review by helena on Letterboxd

    my postcolonial theory tutor's endorsement of Frantz Fanon: "look, they're never going to make a film based on Anthony Giddens. well, maybe - but they'd certainly never be able to get Lauryn Hill to narrate it."

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