Interview with Hassan Mezine (“Fanon, hier, aujourd’hui”)

Many thanks to Peter Jordens for sharing these articles, interviews, and podcast (from RFI and Le Point Afrique) with Hassan Mezine, director of the documentary Fanon, hier, aujourd’hui [Fanon, Yesterday, Today]. Hassina Mechaï describes the documentary as “a portrait in human proportions of the figure who is and remains Frantz Fanon [showing] how ‘Fanon clinically examines colonialism,’ in the words of director Hassan Mezine.” Mechaï writes:

To speak of Frantz Fanon, or rather, to draw up his portrait is not an easy task. The explanation lies in the fact that this figure of the end of the first half of the twentieth century cannot be more intimidating. His life, so short (1925-1961), bears commitments at the heart of the most vivid history, that of the liberation of Africa. This did not prevent Hassan Mezine from attacking it, without debunking the Commander’s statue, but also without allowing himself to be petrified, stunned by the magnitude of the task.

Césaire had dubbed him “the flint warrior.” Superb description by the poet who expresses so well the granite of Fanon’s life, stone by stone, the inflexibility and intransigence of rock to build the emancipatory commitment for Africa. Incandescence also of the flint stone that was the Martinican psychiatrist’s life; a life that would ignite fires. From his Algerian home, Fanon wanted to extend the revolutionary fire that animated all of Africa, before the disease took him over at 36 years old. Therefore, Hassan Mezine traces a very rich life with numerous testimonies and relevant archives. Engaged in the French army to free France from Nazism, Fanon discovers racism, discrimination and contempt. “I was wrong,” he wrote to his parents in a poignant letter of disillusionment, which seems to mark a break, or rather, a deep wound. Then came Blida, his psychiatric work with local patients, a “sad and passionate” doctor, as described by one of the witnesses in the film. Struggling against a racist psychiatry school, whose theories had nothing to envy Gobineau, Fanon humanizes his patients, innovates, and cares for the sick as he tries to cure the psychiatric institution of the racist poison that blinds it. In parallel, he continued his commitment within the FLN, the labor of writing, theorizing the struggle, with action and reflection intimately combined. Then the desire to open up this revolution increasingly towards the South, always further in Africa, all the way to the tip of South Africa.

Hassan Mezine’s film—and here resides its great quality—certainly leans towards the past, but opens fully to the present. Better yet, it widens the future, building connections between Fanon and current struggles, whether in Africa or elsewhere in the world. Selected in many festivals, from Bejaïa to Guadeloupe, passing through London and Madrid, Fanon, hier, aujourd’hui especially reminds us that Fanon will always be read and reread—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Interview

Le Point Afrique: Why did you make this film on Fanon, why not other anti-colonialist activists, like Curiel or Alleg, for example?

Hassan Mezine: I find Fanon’s multiple dimensions very interesting: he was a psychiatrist, an anti-colonialist militant, a theoretician of decolonization, but also very much involved in decolonial struggles. He knew about the condition of colonized from the inside, which is not the case (even if it is obviously not their fault) of all the anti-colonialist activists. Fanon occupies a very special position; he examines colonialism clinically, but simultaneously proposes alternatives. He feels oppression, but is never beset by hatred, resentment, or revenge. He expresses it simply in the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth; when he evokes “the new man,” he proposes to heal, to heal everyone, both those who suffer from a colonial complex of superiority and those who suffer from an equally colonial complex of inferiority. His vision is humanistic, inclusive: Fanon speaks of love. He proposes on this basis to start a new humanity on new and renewed foundations. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For original article and interview (in French), see https://www.lepoint.fr/culture/documentaire-hassan-mezine-fanon-ausculte-cliniquement-le-colonialisme-12-09-2018-2250504_3.php

Also see http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20190417-hassan-mezine-realisateur-documentaire-fanon-hier-aujourd-hui

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