Film: Concerning Violence (2014)

February 24, 2015 | By


ConcerningViolence_poster_sFilm: Excellent

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

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Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary

Synopsis: Striking, provocative essay film overlaying the words of Frantz Fanon’s decolonization theories onto rare footage of colonial strife in Africa, spanning the 1960s-1980s.

Special Features:  n/a




Using a blend of text, archival audio and film footage, Finnish director Göran Olsson (The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975) adapts words from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961) to itemize the consequences and lingering ills of (primarily) European colonialism, and its messy legacy in Africa.

Each of the nine chapters singles out one or two African countries, with Lauryn Hill reading the occasionally onscreen text that sets up the rare archival footage of strife in progress.

Hot spots include rebel movements in Portuguese-controlled Angola; Rhodesia, in which a racist landowner is unhappy the black-to-white ratio hovers around 34:1; Zimbabwe’s erudite Robert Mugabe, expounding the virtues of black-white integration in spite of being a despot; a worker’s strike at a Swedish-owned mine in Liberia, with military aide provided by a pro-corporate government; Burkina Faso’s soon-to-die Thomas Sankara’s refuting IMF aide to avoid both financial dependence and punishing terms from the international loan shark entity; jungle surgery on a wounded soldier in Guinea-Bissau; a defiant group of women FRELIMO fighters in occupied areas of Mozambique, bombing runs by the Portuguese Army, and unsettling hospital footage of a mother and an infant with limbs freshly blown off. (Other graphic footage includes several cows repeatedly shot by snipers in helicopters in the film’s opening sequence.)

Concerning Violence may be a snapshot of dehumanizing colonial behaviour, but it’s also a political mondo film that uses an essay format to present snapshots of shared African discord to support the decolonization stages outlined by Fanon. Imagery ranges from sedate to sedately horrific, and Hill’s reading of blunt statements gives the film a distinctive period flavour, like a lost documentary suppressed by colonial overlords for the past 40 years.

It’s a fascinating work with a textured use of sounds (voice, dialogue, interviews, and great archival and diegetic music) and images (on-the-spot news interviews and reportages from French and Swedish teams). There’s no overt effort to side with nor criticize neither Fanon nor some of the political figures within the narrative, and it’s perhaps a sly stance, because the film’s impact (especially the stark, bitter ironies of corruption and exploitation that linger today) depends on the knowledge and mores of an audience: the more edified in history and politics, the more bitterly ironic many of the sequences become.

At the very least, Concerning Violence should prick a curiosity for the histories of Fanon and the African nations, and the complex legacies of colonial exploitation and repression in other continents.

Distributed theatrically by KINO and screening at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Friday February 27 – Thursday March 5, Concerning Violence (78 mins.) is preceded by a short, on-camera professorial prologue (7 mins.) that somewhat sets up the doc’s structure and the more striking images in the finale, especially the ‘black Venus’ and ‘black Madonna’ archetypes. Reading from her notes, it’s a rather dry into with rare close-up edits, and seems like a curious lead-in, although perhaps it reflects the obvious challenge of attempting to contextualize the complexities of Fanon and his writings to the masses without delving into too much formal language.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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