Concerning Violence is, as its title suggests, a film concerned with (and by) violence – the perverse, enslaving violence of colonialism, together with its perhaps inevitable corollary: the violence of revolutionary decolonization. It dwells on other shades of violence too: the violence done to bodies and the violence done to minds and spirits; the violence that liberates and the violence that destroys.
In keeping with the prophetic thinker, fighter and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon (1924-1961) – whose beautiful and terrifying prose is declaimed throughout this film by Lauryn Hill – Concerning Violence refuses to spell out the precise form that anti-colonial struggle should or should not take. Instead, we are simply shown pieces of life, death and the states that lie in between, in the form of footage culled from colonial, neo-colonial and post-colonial existence in different parts of Africa in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and we are invited to reflect on what we have seen.
Like Olsson’s previous, equally startling political documentary, The Black Power Mixtape (2011), Swedish television archives have provided much of the unusual material that makes its way to the final film. The resulting document is a simultaneously electrifying and hybrid collage, showing us that the theories of power and its abuse outlined by Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth are as relevant to the fractured world we live in today as they were back in 1961.