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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Concerning Violence’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Concerning Violence'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“Concerning Violence”
Dir: Goran Hugo Olsson
Criticwire Average: A-

One of the year’s most searing, powerful documentaries is also, according to Dan Schindel of Movie Mezzanine, “one of the least audience-baiting documentaries to come down the pipeline in some time.” It’s a film that uses philosopher/psychologist Frantz Fanon’s anticolonial text “The Wretched of the Earth,” which often made an argument that violence would be the most effective path to revolution for Africans against colonies, as an inspiration, and the film dives deep into the confrontations between colonial power and those fighting against it. It is bound to make many viewers uncomfortable.

That’s also why it’s such a valuable film. Brilliantly edited from images and footage from the 1960s to the present, the film doesn’t advocate violence so much as it follows through on that approach, showing both the sacrifices, the consequences, and why it’s often the most satisfying and successful way for the oppressed to fight back. It’s one of the year’s most challenging documentaries, and one of its most rewarding.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Divided into nine sequences, “Concerning Violence” stretches from images of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola and a Liberian miners strike from the sixties all the way through the contemporary struggles of Burkina Faso. Once again, Olsson’s project is empowered by a wealth of content from Swedish archives, resulting in a spectacularly dense collage of protests, battles and their grisly aftermaths in both color and black-and-white. Read more.

Noel Murray, The Dissolve

Just about everything Olsson and Fanon have to say about the narrow colonial mindset is summed up by this Rhodesian when he tells a story about his mother promising to burn her car rather than let one her black servants have it. Half-chuckling and half-sighing, he concludes, “So that’s the attitude of the Africans.” “Concerning Violence” looks back at when that mindset dominated Africa, and how the discussion changed year-by-year—first with words, and then with blood.

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

Finding purchase here will be valuable, especially when the takeaway is less a didactic sense of outrage than a more measured examination of the sacrifices people make to bring about change. Olsson requires us to connect the dots to today’s struggles (a missed opportunity), but his discoveries are more than sufficient. The white Rhodesian, scowling at his butler, calling him “stupid” within earshot—the effrontery is hard to wrap your head around. Read more.

Dan Schindel, Movie Mezzanine

“Concerning Violence” is, in other words, one of the least audience-baiting documentaries to come down the pipeline in some time. It’s also brilliant, bouncing across the globe and between time periods. Through images of shantytown life, African servitude to whites, labor strikes, missionary work, violent uprisings, and more, the doc illustrates and reinforces Fanon’s thoughts on the dehumanizing effects of imperialism, and how violence can act as a catharsis through which an oppressed people can regain their dignity. Read more.

Keith Uhlich, The A.V. Club

“Concerning Violence” isn’t out to soothe its audience with platitudes about peace, love, and understanding. Its exploration of an entrenched system that breeds generations of oppression and violence is extremely upsetting yet still highly rewarding. (And though the film mainly concerns itself with Europe, don’t think the United States is let off the hook.) Read more.

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