Film Reviews

REVIEW: Concerning Violence

Hot Docs 2014

Concerning Violence
Sweden/USA/Denmark/Finland, 84 min.
Directed by Gören Hugo Olsson
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

Following the success of his 2011 feature The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Gören Hugo Olsson returns with a new film that also draws from Swedish archival footage of decolonization efforts in Africa. Using these valuable historical records as a visual guide for the audience, Concerning Violence is powerfully driven by narrated text drawn from Frantz Fanon’s iconic 1962 book The Wretched of the Earth. Though written more than half a century ago, Fanon’s passionate admonishment of colonization (and the capitalist greed that drives it) is timeless in its demand for justice for the world’s oppressed.

Concerning Violence opens with a preface by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a Columbia University professor who explains that the film is “a teaching text,” meant to help us read between the lines of Fanon’s call to violence against the colonizers, to acknowledge the innate tragedy that the poor and oppressed are forced to resort to violence in order for change to occur. Spivak’s opening sets the tone for Concerning Violence, which is not merely meant to provide the viewer with historical insight, but to challenge us to consider the ways in which the colonial spirit is perpetuated to this day.

Split into nine segments, the film shows a breadth of resistance movements and tales of oppression—a miners’ strike in Liberia in 1966, white missionaries attempting to convert and “civilize” Tanzanians, and guerrilla fighters in Mozambique, to name a few.

Some of the stories Olsson introduces are not adequately contextualized, which could be due to the limitations of working solely with archival footage. Audience members may not know much, if anything, about groups such as MPLA and FRELIMO (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola and the Mozambique Liberation Front, respectively), and while it’s not Olsson’s task to supply a full history lesson for each group he profiles, some additional information would be extremely useful for viewers. However, Fanon’s text—narrated by musician Lauryn Hill—gives necessary cohesion to a film that asks the viewer to confront the uncomfortable idea that sometimes violence may be the only way to incite change. The fact that Concerning Violence is comprised of European-shot footage and has a Swedish director only adds to the complications inherent in the colonizer-colonized relationship expressed in this complex film.

Screenings:
Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, Apr 27 4:00 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Mon, Apr 28 4:15 PM

Hart House Theatre
Fri, May 2 3:30 PM

Visit POV’s Hot Docs Hub for more reviews and features on the 2014 festival.