​lauryn hill narrates documentary about africa’s anti-colonial fight

Director Goran Hugo Olsson draws parallels between African resistance in the 60s and the Ferguson riots today. The former Fugee recorded the voice-over for Concerning Violence straight out of prison.

by Stuart Brumfitt
01 December 2014, 11:15am

A powerful new documentary, with narration by Lauryn Hill, shows how violent resistance is a logical reaction to oppression. Concerning Violence, by Goran Hugo Olsson, is a cinematic adaption of Afro-French psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer Franz Fanon's The Wretched Earth, an urgent text that highlights the damaging effects of colonialisation and justifies a fight back.

Olsson told us that he got Hill on board by writing to her when she was in prison for tax problems. "We have mutual friends and through them, I knew that she was into Fanon," the 47-year-old Swede said. "I asked her if she was interested in doing the voice and she said, 'I can't believe you're writing to me about this, because I'm reading Fanon at night-time from my cell right now.' She was released on the Friday and on Monday she was recording the voice."

The director had to ask Hill to slow down when reading. "I can't read slower," she said, "because when I read this text, it's like 400 years of oppression that releases from me and it's a revelation, and a revelation is always a celebration." But Olsson managed to convince her that reading slower meant the message would get across more effectively. The result is some great, powerful oration - helped by the strength of the original text.

Olsson explained the basis of the book and film to i-D: "The short version of Fanon is, where people have no other option, violence can be both the goal and the means. Sooner or later, there are no other possibilities. When something's been going on for such a long time, you will see violence. When you grow up in a violent society and see violence all around you, then to react with violence is a natural thing."

The director adds that he sees parallels with the current situation across the USA as a response to the killing of Michael Brown (and previous young African-American men, like Trayvon Martin) by police. "There is no other way for people to react to the verdict of the Ferguson jury; no non-violent way. It's obvious that what's going on in Ferguson is exactly as Fanon describes."

Concerning Violence is 95% archive footage from Swedish broadcasts and documentaries and is out in cinemas now.

lauryn hill
Göran Hugo Olsson