SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2014
By Don Simpson | February 3, 2014
Director: Göran Hugo Olsson
Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la Terre, 1961) functions as the inspiration and spine for Göran Hugo Olsson’s Concerning Violence. Featuring excerpts of Fanon’s text read by Lauryn Hill, Olsson presents us with his own visual text on the dehumanizing effects of colonization and the importance of promoting social movements that strive for decolonization. Focusing on the unfathomable psychological damage caused by colonization, Olsson channels Fanon in advocating that the colonized people resort to violence in order to liberate themselves from colonizing forces. For a pacifist, this might be a bitter pill to swallow, but Olsson’s unmatched finesse in assembling archival footage might just be enough to convert some naysayers over to the legitimacy of violence.
A visually poetic contemplation of nationalism versus imperialism, Concerning Violence is armed with striking images that are both memorable and mesmerizing. As he did with The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Olsson uses the Swedish Television archives as his source, revealing 78 minutes worth of images that most of the world has never seen before. In Olsson’s highly capable hands, the archival footage captures Fanon’s theories with such eloquent profundity it is impossible to imagine that the Swedish Television crews did not shoot this footage specifically for Concerning Violence. Why else would the Swedish Television crews immerse themselves so completely into both sides of the colonization divide, obviously putting their lives at risk while doing so?
Within the nine chapters of this documentary, Olsson cleverly establishes stark juxtapositions in the images (for example: showing the comfortable lives of white colonists with black servants always on the periphery in comparison to lives in the poor black slums or rebel camps), but this is never done heavy-handedly. If the Swedish Television crews had any motivation in shooting this footage, it was to present both sides of the colonization debate with mutual respect; though consumed in our modern context, the colonists certainly come off as the dastardly villains, playing right into Olsson’s hands. We see firsthand how the colonists ingratiate their Western (read: white) cultural identities into the unsuspecting nationals, forcing the natives to convert to Christianity and speak their language as a means of manipulating and enslaving their minds. In retrospect, we know the true intentions of the colonists, to acquire natural resources and cheap (free) labor.