Concerning Violence



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Time Out says

Sun Jan 26

A pulsing, echoing trumpet blast—repeated throughout—and some in-your-face political carnage identify Concerning Violence for what it is: a prickly, passionate call to arms. The director, Göran Olsson, isn't some bomb-throwing radical. Rather, he's a patient Swede who enjoys going through old television reels. His previous composite film, 2011's The Black Power Mix Tape 1967–1975, unearthed a trove of eye-opening material: feisty interviews with the boldly afro-ed Angela Davis, bustling Harlem street scenes, the Nixon era at war with itself.

Once again, Olsson turns to his method of 16mm reclamation, this time, with more purpose and ambition. Instead of creating another chronological journey, he weds extraordinary found footage—an Angolan jungle night raid, a Liberian miners' strike, an early, hopeful interview with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe—to the words of anticolonialist social theorist Frantz Fanon, whose 1961 text The Wretched of the Earth provides a framework for the new documentary's nine sections. "Greater violence," Fanon contends, is the only way to roust the initial violence of an invading power. Only minutes in, Olsson gets his dark clouds brewing.

Will it help to be boned up on your '60s and '70s historical hotspots? Undoubtedly: Concerning Violence demands a plugged-in viewer, as does Chris Marker's immortal history of the left wing, A Grin Without a Cat (1977), to which this project feels like an addendum. But Olsson is savvy enough to extend a hand to the young and curious: ex-Fugee Lauryn Hill's soulful readings take Fanon's message to a personal place of fire. Elsewhere, the filmmaker uses the writer's shock tactics to fuel his own artistic strategy, confronting us with hospitalized militia victims missing their arms and feet (including an impossibly sad mother and infant).

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.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf



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Release details

US release:



78 mins

Cast and crew


Göran Olsson

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