CONCERNING VIOLENCE is the new work from Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson (BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1965–1975). It’s an innovative adaptation of Frantz Fanon’s book The Wretched of the Earth, which was banned by French authorities in the 1960s because of its alleged incitement of violence. Composed of Swedish TV footage shot in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, and narrated by singer-activist Lauryn Hill, CONCERNING VIOLENCE is quite the antidote to the ‘Band Aid’ approach to Africa that currently dominates popular discourse.
The film has three weapons of choice: Fanon’s poetic text, delivered with simmering anger by Lauryn Hill; infuriating footage of white colonisers and settlers abusing their power and privilege; and finally, Africans fighting back, organised in rag-tag militias. This structure synthesises an argument that the African people, although victims for hundreds of years under slavery and exploitation, at this point in history took matters into their own hands.
CONCERNING VIOLENCE is a radically different look at a continent that is most often seen through the prism of victimhood, disease and poverty. In the media landscape of Ebola and immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean, this documentary offers an origin story for where we are now. Its unapologetically revolutionary tone will cause audiences to react in different ways: the screening I was at had some applauding and cheering; others were angry at what they saw as a ‘simplistic’ approach to the problems on the continent. Regardless of your politics, some of the footage will make you angry – such as teenage white boys golfing while grown black men work as caddies, or white settlers calling the locals ‘gooks’ and lamenting the end of their own rule. Some of the footage is hilarious, such as the European missionaries bent on converting Africans to Christianity in a scene that could be straight out of The Book of Mormon.
Through the film we trace the journey of African countries such as Angola, which went from Portuguese colony to independent nation to Cold War battleground – or Burkina Faso, where we see Thomas Sankara, a young and idealistic leader, daring to refuse the IMF’s advice, only to be assassinated in a coup d’état allegedly backed by the USA and France. This sad chapter closes the film, leaving Africa in 1987, towards the end of the decolonisation process and at the beginning of a new era, shaped and possibly cursed by its past.
Göran Olsson – BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1965–1975
Hubert Sauper – WE COME AS FRIENDS
Hubert Sauper – DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE
Dylan Mohan Gray – FIRE IN THE BLOOD
Frantz Fanon – Black Skin, White Masks
Frantz Fanon – The Wretched of the Earth
Eduardo Galeano – Open Veins of Latin America