An abstract and concrete interpretation of the essence of violence sets the tone for a new documentary by Göran Hugo Olsson titled, Concerning Violence. Olsson expands the notion of violence beyond the physical act to encompass mental and emotional trauma as he juxtaposes found footage from Africa’s late ‘60s and ‘70s anti-colonialist movement with words from psychiatrist and revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth (narrated in the film by Lauryn Hill).
Here, the Swede filmmaker—whose previous acclaimed work The Black Power Mixtape also utilized archival material—employs images of strikes in Liberia, night raids, and militia victims with missing limbs that capture the effects and scars of violence both seen and unseen. Olsson spoke with us about why Fanon’s call for arms is still relevant to contemporary movements, his desire for the film to address White privilege, and why he morally refuses to film an original documentary in Africa.
On whether or not violence has a place in current liberation movements including recent demonstrations against police brutality:
“Unfortunately yeah. Violence was part of the French Revolution and the American Revolution. I am not advocating it as such but you cannot take it out of the equation. Sometimes non-violence works brilliantly and sometimes it doesn’t. But the West and Europe must learn that this violence will be a result of oppression because there is no other way for the human being to go.”
On the responsibility of Europeans to acknowledge and address issues of colonialism:
“We all have that responsibility and for sure the European people. We have to realize how complicated it [colonialism] is now. It’s not like the state of France trying to expand its territories. It is more sophisticated now with companies taking on a workforce abroad that doesn’t have contacts or families and doesn’t start unions. We all have a responsibility to point this out. For those living in privileged parts of the world we have to acknowledge hardship others go through in order for us to buy a t-shirt for five dollars.”
On why Western or European filmmakers should not attempt to make documentaries in Africa:
“I made the film as Fanon for beginners in Northern Europe and I didn't expect it to travel and play good in Africa. But any European or I have nothing to say to any African about how they should organize or react. I don’t think my work could in anyway enlighten people under oppression. European documentary filmmakers should never go to Africa and make documentaries because they have a colonial view. If we want to see films on Africa we can see African films made by African filmmakers.”
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.