Bhakti Shringarpure Reviews “Concerning Violence”

UntitledIn “Fanon documentary confronts fallacies about anti-colonial philosopher,” Bhakti Shringarpure (professor at the University of Connecticut and editor-in-chief of Warscapes) offers a comprehensive and stimulating examination of Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense (2014), the latest documentary film directed by Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson. Featuring the voice of Lauryn Hill, who reads Fanon’s passages on decolonization, nationalism, inequality, and violence, Concerning Violence has been screening since January 2014 to packed audiences on the film festival circuit, such as the Sundance Film Festival, the Sydney Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival (this November), among others. [Also see previous post New Film: Göran Hugo Olsson’s “Concerning Violence”.] Shringarpure soberly writes, “In the darkness of the movie theatre [. . .], a mirror was held up to all of us in the audience. It was no wonder, then, that when the film ended, no one was cheering.” Here are excerpts with a link to the full review below:

[. . .] Concerning Violence is a completely different beast. Relying yet again on possibly forgotten footage from Swedish archives, the film has been anchored in Martinican psychiatrist and anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon’s controversial essay, Concerning Violence, from his 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth. I had the impression that we were being provided with a visual exegesis on Fanon’s famous, misunderstood, and over-read text about violence, and that the images, in fact, served to bolster, or rather, offer, a kind of choreography to the text.

Olsson’s interest is in decolonisation – that short yet potent moment at the tail end of an anti-colonial war followed by the transfer of power when the new nation comes into being. This has often proven to be one of the most violent episodes in post-colonial history, and Fanon is its most articulate philosopher.

The film’s subtitle, Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense, reflects Olsson’s investment in making Fanon’s theory relevant and up-to-date. The opening sequence offers a brief thrill which is immediately appropriated: helicopters whir in the air and soldiers shoot down terrified cows in a vast and lush field. This footage is reminiscent of Coppola’s war scenes in Apocalypse Now, but the illusion is immediately shattered as the camera closes in and holds on the face of a murdered cow, blood slowly trickling down from her nostrils.

This is the first scene out of the nine, titled Decolonization, and focuses on the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in 1977 as it carries out a stealth attack on the Portuguese-ruled and oil-rich Cabinda province in Congo. This footage is juxtaposed with that of white, pre-pubescent boys playing golf as African caddies follow them around carrying their clubs.

[. . .] As images of war flooded the screen, I became concerned that this would be yet another work turning Fanon into a “prophet” of violence, a reading of his work which has held sway, at least in academia, for decades now. [. . .] In this documentary, Olsson builds layer upon layer of images showing abject poverty, racism, over-worked people, crude guerrilla warfare countering slick European planes, places where natural resources like oil and diamonds are being unearthed with appalling living conditions for workers, and hospitals overflowing with wounded women, children and men.

In so doing, he taps into the primary violence of the coloniser, rather than of the colonised, falling definitively into the camp of thinkers who believe that Fanon was not propagating violence but merely understanding its effects and uses. [. . .]

[Many thanks to Tanja Ostojic and Alanna Lockward for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full review, see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/-sp-frantz-fanon-documentary-concerning-violence

Also see an earlier review and interview with the director at http://www.film.com/movies/sundance-directors-cut-interview-goran-hugo-olsson-concerning-violence

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