Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson delves again into the treasure trove that are the bottomless archives of Swedish television and comes back up with a series of time capsules about the anti-colonial movements of 1960s and 1970s Africa. He then fashions them into a "film-tract", or film à thèse, simultaneously illuminated and subtitled by the writings of the controversial Martinican thinker Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), especially his "magnum opus" The Wretched of the Earth.
Articulated into "nine scenes of the anti-imperialist self-defense" using footage shot by Swedish television crews in Angola, Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), Liberia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau during their "wars of independence", Mr. Olsson creates a thoughtful and though-provoking mosaic of montage that travels along parallel paths of context and revelation. As read by American singer Lauryn Hill, the words of Mr. Fanon supply historical context to the independence movements that aimed at liberating these countries from their exploration by the colonial mentality, while at the same time pulling the camera back to show the larger picture of colonial capitalism.
The formal playfulness of Concerning Violence appears to loop in on itself: the footage becomes almost an illustration or commentary of the thinker's writings, but at the same time the words turn out to become a diagnostic tool for what ailed Africa and led it to what it is today as shown by the pictures. What Mr. Olsson does, forcefully if not subtly but with great power, is to point out just how the blithe disregard of the colonialists for the long-term consequences of their actions have played out over the years, how the repercussions of colonial capitalism are still resonating nowadays, not just in Africa but all over the world.
And while the answer at the time this footage was shot seemed to be violence, the film both asks what came out of choosing it as the only answer, and if it can be the only answer to similar situations - because Mr. Fanon's words about colonial capitalism seem to apply equally strongly to post-colonial, global capitalism and the world we live in. This makes Concerning Violence simultaneously a conceptual piece and a political primer that asks its viewers to engage in what it is talking about while giving back to them in spades something to chew on, agree or disagree.
Sweden, USA, Denmark, Finland, 2014
Director Göran Hugo Olsson; text excerpts from Frantz Fanon's book The Wretched of the Earth read by Lauryn Hill; art director Stefania Malmsten; film editors Michael Aaglund, Dino Jonsåter, Mr. Olsson and Sophie Vukovic; composer Neo Muyanga; producers Annika Rogell and Tobias Janson; production companies Story in co-production with Louverture Films, Final Cut For Real, Helsinki Filmi and Sveriges Television
Screened December 2nd 2014, Lisbon (Porto/Post/Doc screener)