Bad Boys for Life
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An amazing speech about decolonization process with a critical view for what it have done and what must be done by now
This documentary brings together Frantz Fanon's militant and theoretical work about the inherent violence of global system of exploitative capitalism and its roots in the history of European imperialism (which he articulated in his last book The Wretched of the Earth) with Swedish archival material of the different independence movements and struggles taking place in Africa during the heyday of de-colonization. The film is structured around key passages of Fanon's text narrated by Lauryn Hill (erstwhile lead-singer of the Fugees) that frame different episodes of postcolonial (mostly violent) encounters between the colonizers and the colonized.
The documentary starts with a lengthy introduction by postcolonial theory icon Gayatri Spivak, giving an introduction to Fanon's life and work. Fanon, born in the Carribean, was a psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary, who through his work in a French clinic in Algeria came to support the Algerian War for Independence. The Wretched of the Earth was finished merely month before his premature death of leukemia at age 36. It was published just a few days before his death in France and banned immediately.
The sub-title of the documentary "Nine scenes from the Anti-Imperialist Self-Defense" describes the nine, quite diverse vignettes from more than 25 years of postcolonial struggle, and analyzes the interconnected trajectories of race, class, national culture and violence in the fight for national liberation.
Violence: Fanon was and still is being criticized for what is being seen as his advocacy of violence in the struggle of independence, although he tries to show in his reasoning that violence is the only recourse open to those which have been made less than human in an system of openly violent suppression. Watching the different film segments it becomes actually quite obvious that much of the violence shown is actually perpetrated by the colonizers and suffered by those that are hailed as the instigators of violence. Nowhere does this become more obvious than in the episode of the peaceful Lamco strike in Liberia 1966, where there were no violent protests by workers - they simply did not show up for work - and the leadership of the Swedish Mining Corporation then appealed to the Liberian government to send the army (against their own people), something that would have been inconceivable in the democratic homeland of the corporation. The final scene shows one of the striking workers who is taken out of his company-owned house by armed soldiers, put on a truck with his whole family and his meager belongings and then dumped in the middle of nowhere. Juxtaposed to this we hear then-president (of Liberia) William Tubman justifying the use of state violence against his own people in the name of a neo-liberal economic policy (the state has to protect the foreign investment).
Gender: Fanon's lack of addressing the role of gender or acknowledging the deeply gendered nature of the postcolonial struggle is another of the issues that contemporary critics of his work are drawing attention to. With regard to the question of gender the documentary actually manages to add a further dimension to Fanon's argument. In one of the episodes two Dutch missionaries (a husband and wife team) are interviewed together. They are standing next to each other, portrayed as equals, but this first assessment soon gets questioned as it is the man who gives all the answers while his wife is standing next to him, supportive, but also completely silent/silenced. That is, until the interviewer quite insistently asks them which passage exactly in the Bible prohibits polygamy, one of the local practices they are trying to fight. Neither the male missionary nor his wife are able to answer the question. This segment is remarkable for several reasons: first, it highlights the fact that men and women are not considered equal in the so called civilized culture. Secondly it draws attention to their failure to interrogate their own believes and values critically while at the same time considering themselves morally superior to those they have come to christianize/civilize.
Another segment in which gender figures prominently is the one about FRELIMO, the Mozambique Liberation Front, where women fought as guerilla fighters alongside the men - and at least within that context - were awarded the same rights, in keeping with the Marxist origins of the movement. Having been socialized within a patriarchical society they seized the opportunity which the war for independence afforded them. But the segment not only shows women as agents of change, but also as victims of war in what has to be one of the most disturbing visual moments of the documentary: we see a beautiful, young black woman, whose right arm is missing from above the elbow. The frontal medium shot almost automatically calls forth the image of the Venus of Milo, that white-washed icon of Hellenic beauty. She then puts a baby with a severed leg to her bare bosom and is transformed into another icon of Western Culture: the Madonna with her child...
The last segment - which is also the historically most recent - features an interview with Thomas Sankara in 1987, who is often described as the African Che Guevara. He was the president of Burkina Faso and fought to make his country self-sufficient. He also criticized the power the IMF exerted over former colonies by making their monetary help conditional; instead he advocated for knowledge transfer and technological help. His revolutionary regime was cut short when he was assassinated in 1987.
If I would criticize something then it would be that the documentary lacks a certain internal coherence. But maybe this post-modern assemblage of vignettes could also be viewed positively as it highlights various aspects of colonialism with its history of blatant and unapologetic racism, shows the various paths decolonization with its divers struggles for independence took, and affords a different perspective on a neo-colonial world order that still operates under a regime of inequality. In a way it is sad to see how little has changed since Fanon wrote his impassioned plea for a more just world order more than 50 years ago. It also makes us (or at least me, since I cannot speak for everybody) realize how much current and ongoing conflicts in the Third World in general and on the African continent in particular are a legacy of Europe's oppressive regimes of exploitation.
watching it again made me wanna go home and stay home.
A sobering documentary on the struggle for African liberation paints a sorry picture of Europe in its efforst to destroy the uprising of the new Africa.
Based on a book written by Frantz Fanon who had real difficulty getting his book published before dying at the age of 36.
The film contains nine segments showing the brutal repression by so called civilised nations and how even today Europe keeps parts of the world poor and downtrodden in order to reap the benefits of the lands they repress
For example take the brutal gorilla war in Mozambique during the 70s one only has to look at events in Syria to see how little Europe and America have learnt in the intervening years.
The film encourages you to question the periods of great empires and the deadly legacy which they left of the colonizes people of those nations.
The colonies have become a market.
"Concerning Violence" is a passable documentary wherein Lauryn Hill does an impeccable job of intoning Frantz Fanon's text over scenes of revolutionary struggle in the developing world, most involving Portugal's futile attempts to hold on to its empire, long past its sell by date. In fact, the documentary only gets as recent as 1987 in Burkina Faso, as it makes very few if any connections to the present day, especially concerning Palestine for example.
And overall as well-intentioned as "Concerning Violence" generally is, I am afraid it can only serve as an introductory course in an international development course of story, as most serious students of this subject are already familiar with these stories or ones very similar in nature. Reinforcing that very notion is a Columbia University professor introducing the material on film.
My main problem with this, is that it hasn't really been adapted to film. It's essentially some text over some images. The prologue in which academic talks about the book on which it's based should have been warning enough. These people don't really understand how the medium differs from a book. A lot of the footage and stories they cut away so tame You think, 'there must have been better stuff than this?'. Another problem I had was the use of, Lauryn Hill, herself an enthusiastic racist as narrator. This woman has no problem with racism against some races. The text itself was so abstract and academic that it really was mostly bullshit.