Frantz Omar Fanon, the Martiniquais-French psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism, passed away on December 6, 1961, at just 35 years old. Leukemia was the cause of death.
Fanon’s writings include the author’s two critically significant works – Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and Wretched of the Earth (1961) – essentially manifestos presenting a utopian vision of a world in which the colonized frees himself/herself and becomes independent of the colonizer, both physically and mentally. Fanon’s theories were influential during those years, especially on the Third Cinema movement, right from its launch in the 1960s – a time of anti-colonial revolutionary struggles in the so-called “Third World,” and rising political movements against the dominance of Western countries. Third Cinema was formed to address the need for a new kind of cinema that critiqued neocolonialism, Western imperialism and capitalism; an anti-oppression stance that challenged the status quo of political and social power around the world that left the “Third World” at a disadvantage.
In keeping with that thrust, as well as in remembrance of Fanon and the influence of his work, BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY will present the screening series, “Black Skin, White Masks: Cinema Inspired by Frantz Fanon,” curated by Ashley Clark. Kicking off on October 18, and running through the 26th, the program, divided into Fanon-prompted categories of thematically similar films, includes over a dozen works, both feature-length and shorts, spanning 65 years of cinema history. Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with several of them, notably Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 timeless masterpiece The Battle of Algiers, which realistically reconstructs events that occurred during the Algerian war of independence from the French in the late 1950s. A film that still resonates as an authentic and unique insight into the Algerian conflict, embraced by leftist groups like the Black Panthers, this upcoming BAM series presents New Yorkers with a rare opportunity to see the film as it was made to be seen – on the big screen.
Also on the schedule are: the “Father of African cinema,” Ousmane Sembene’s seminal film La Noire De… (Black Girl, 1966), a film rich with symbolism and complexities that are essentially reactions to, and analyses of the cultural legacy of colonialism – a recurrent theme you’ll find in much of Sembène’s work – which helped launch an era in film history that inspired many generations of artists on the African continent and beyond; in addition, one of the most impressive feature film debuts of the last 30 years, Chameleon Street (1989) by Wendell B. Harris, who was likely one of those artists inspired by Sembène, and maybe more specifically Black Girl, which he seems to reference in a scene in his debut feature about a black man in late 1970s/early 80s America, who, through intellect, charm, wit, skill, and just pure luck, is able to con his way into various predominantly white-controlled institutions and establishments, assuming various identities; from the Swedish team that attempted to contextualize the Black Power Movement in a format more accessible to a new generation in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, director Goran Hugo Olsson continued on that same path with Concerning Violence (2014) – a project that incorporates the words from Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, using newly-discovered archival footage (as was the case with Mixtape), to explore the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the “Third World.”
Other titles in the program include Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks (Isaac Julien, 1995); Sara Maldoror’s Angolan War of Independence-set 1972 drama Sambizanga; Michael Haneke’s 2005 psychological thriller Caché; No Fear, No Die (French: S’en fout la mort), the 1990 drama that follows the exploits of 2 black men living on the fringes of French society, directed by Claire Denis, which features one of a handful of on-screen pairings of thespians Isaach De Bankolé and Alex Descas (Denis has directed both actors separately in over half-a-dozen films); Chris Marker’s 1953 film essay (which he co-directed with Alain Resnais) Les Statues meurent aussi, or Statues Also Die – an award-winning 30-minute work on African art, and the effects colonialism has had on how that art is perceived; and there are more titles in the series.
For more info on the program, as well as how to purchase tickets ahead of its run (October 18-26), visit here.
The full lineup of films in the series follows below.
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks (Isaac Julien, 1995)
Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992)
Chameleon Street (Wendell B. Harris Jr., 1989)
Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene,1966) + Statues Also Die (Chris Marker & Alain Resnais, 1953)
The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Hour of the Furnaces (Octavio Getino & Fernando Solanas, 1968)
No Fear, No Die (Claire Denis, 1990)
Native Son (Pierre Chenal, 1951)
Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror, 1972)
Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson, 2014)
“Unmaking The Mask” program:
–The Finding Fanon Trilogy (Achiampong, Blandy)
–Slowly This (Jafa)
–Now Pretend (Gilliam)
–Giverny 1 (Gary)