Critics' Pick

Concerning Violence (NR)

Documentary 85 min. December 12, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
Göran Hugo Olsson's profound essay documentary aspires to upset in the truest sense. As its vintage footage of the cruelties of colonial life shocks and disgusts, its narration — excerpts from Frantz Fanon's thundering 1961 text The Wretched of the Earth — demands that Western viewers fundamentally upset their conceptions of everything. A commanding indictment of the exploitative nature of geopolitics, and of Europe's and the United States' abuse of native peoples around the world, Concerning Violence pairs up hard truths from Fanon — Lauryn Hill reads his words, each blunt and burning like a cigarette she's putting out in your ear — with damnable scenes shot in colonized countries in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

As the title suggests, viewers will bear witness to the results of violence that Fanon insists is the only recourse of the colonized. The guts of a Portuguese soldier pinken the Guinean muck, a terrifying but also inevitable image: Colonization, Fanon asserts, "is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence." Contrast the shots of the wounded soldier with the scenes here of napalmed Africans — a baby with a red-tipped stump of a leg suckles at the breast of a woman with a stub for an arm — and only a monster would argue the colonized were wrong to fight.

Also haunting: the beaming white folks, lawn-bowling in crisp shorts, laying out at the pool, attended to by native men and women who live in shanties and barely register as people to the oppressors. There are revelations here for everyone, but this definitely should be seen by every white American who shares MLK quotes on Facebook to tell black Americans to stop protesting.
Göran Olsson Lauryn Hill Göran Olsson

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