Hot Docs 2014: Concerning Violence – Documentary Review

Director: Göran Hugo Olsson
Country: Sweden | Finland | Denmark | USA
Runtime: 84 minutes
Rating: 14A

Director and cinematographer Göran Hugo Olsson is back with the full length documentary Concerning Violence, which much like Olsson’s usual style, relies on footage found in archives in order to tell its story, rather than using newly filmed footage. The director mixes literature with film and creates a powerful narrative that outlines issues of colonialism, race, anger, powerlessness, and many other prevailing sentiments in today’s society. Although raw and unapologetic, Concerning Violence is a must see not only for documentary enthusiasts, but for those that live under the impression that the world is now post-racist, and has rid itself of colonialism.

Concerning Violence

The documentary is based on the writings of Frantz Fanon, in his book The Wretched Earth. This book has been internationally recognized as an important work in decolonization literature, and it explores issues from colonialism to class and race. Despite colonialism being a subject matter that is deeply founded on the suffering of the oppressed, and despite increase in information that is available and discussed about colonialism in the school system and society in general, works like Concerning Violence are still terribly essential and necessary in the media today. Fanons text is as powerful today as it ever was. The fact that it´s weight remains heavy just indicates how prevalent the subject matter of this documentary still is.

The documentary uses footage from different anti imperialistic movements and the only recently shot material is a chilling prologue by Indian literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Throughout the film, the narration of Fanons The Wretched Earth is textually superimposed in the images, which not only makes the statements narrated all the more haunting and powerful, but it also makes the work visually stylish, and the retro vibe of the footage compliments the white text nicely. The narration by activist and artist Lauryn Hill is calm and collected, but ruthless and sharp. It seems to me that this work would be perfect to introduce conversation about colonialism to younger generations, since the content is cold and straightforward, but the film is also extremely visually interesting. It should be noted, however, that the film does have several graphic depictions of injury which should be approached with caution should content like this be triggering to viewers.

Concerning Violence

Watching the documentary in an enclosed environment where you are surrounded by others turns the experience into something absolutely thrilling. Issues of colonialism should always resonate within the person consuming any said type of media, and it should be mandatory to give time for self reflection on one´s own experiences both as a victim of colonialism, or as a potential bystander or oppressor. Concerning Violence´s cold facts leave little time for belittling the harsh reality of colonialism, instead they force the viewer into reflection in a most aggressive manner. The documentary is a triumph in both style and content, and it will hopefully head towards widespread distribution.