Concerning Violence: An unprecedented look into the African decolonisation process

Concerning Violence is a 2014 documentary, written and directed by Göran Ollson. The director dug up Swedish television archives to paint a picture using recordings, images and interviews, which retrace the history of African peoples and their struggles for freedom and independence.

Winning awards at Berlin, Oslo and Göteborg Film Festivals and having been nominated at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, Concerning Violence will be available to discover from 2 May on VoD, as part of the Docs from around the World collection.

During the Cold War, radical Swedish filmmakers decided to look at the anti-imperialist and socialist struggles that arose all around world, and, more specifically, in Africa. By cutting and combining around a hundred hours of archive footage, which were a result of these recordings, the director offers an unprecedented look into the African decolonisation process.

In order to understand the inherent violence of colonial ambition, you need to dive into these striking images, because this institutionalised and dehumanising violence could only ever result in the equally violent and desperate retaliation that typified the decolonisation period.

The “snapshots from the time” presented in the film are reports given by Mozambican guerrillas, come from the Tanzanian and Algerian fronts or are interviews with Rhodesian settlers… They juxtapose the settler’s clear conscious, as they wax lyrical while playing on their golf courses or standing beside their pools, with the reality of the African population, under the former’s power. 

Each of these fragments (presented as “nine scenes of imperialist self-defence”) renders an image of the colonial horror, but their interaction gives the staggering impression of seeing a map of the violence in Africa being drawn before your eyes. 

The off-screen voice, which allows viewers to contextualise these images, is that of Lauryn Hill. The former Fugees member was involved in the director’s previous film, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, as a commentator alongside other big names in Afro-American culture.

Concerning Violence draws inspiration from “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon, an intellectual from the French Caribbean and a pioneer of Afro-Caribbean literature. Published in 1961, the book is an in-depth analysis of the violence that accompanied African decolonisation and the various consequences that followed. “The Wretched of the Earth” was prefaced by Jean-Paul Sartre and has influenced several generations of African authors.

This film is an important documentary that combines the power of Frantz Fanon’s words with the strength of images from the recent past. It strangely echoes the reality of today’s world, because violence can only be caused by violence.

30 April 2016, by Cineuropa