Concerning Violence by Göran Hugo Olsson

This post is the last in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary.

Viewers familiar with Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson’s 2011 The Black Power Mixtape will be already acquainted with three of the narrative and formal tropes also present in his follow-up film, Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defence—racialized freedom struggles, repurposed archival footage, and the idea of violence. The Black Power Mixtape raised questions about political violence, but also state violence, through the experience of the Black Power movement in the US in the 1960s and 1970s. In Concerning Violence, Olsson makes the question central to his unconventional and gripping study of African anticolonial struggles by placing his rare and powerful footage under the analytical lens of Afro-French psychoanalyst and theorist Frantz Fanon’s seminal tract, The Wretched of the Earth.

Indeed, it is Fanon’s theory of decolonization, excerpts of which are narrated by the singer Lauryn Hill and appear as visual text, that drive the viewer through archival images from the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, a Liberian miners strike, armed resistance in Burkina Faso, and a variety of other scenes. The question of violence is the question, not only in strategic terms related to specific struggles against colonial rule but – as in Black Power Mixtape – in terms of what counts as violence when considering the colonial condition and decolonization movements. It is an especially provocative and important film in light of the widespread deference given to both non-violence and ideological “balance” in today’s celebrated social issue documentaries, especially those dealing with resistance in the Global South. For Olsson to complement that politics with unconventional decisions about the narrative form and style makes this film feel especially radical.

Top photo credit: Lennart Malmer

About the author

Brett Story

Brett Story is a writer, organizer, and independent documentary filmmaker based out of Toronto whose most recent film, Land of Destiny (2010), offers a portrait of a petrochemical town in crisis. She is currently working toward a PhD in geography at the University of Toronto, conducting a project about the relationship between prisons and cities.

By Brett Story