Göran Hugo Olsson
Born 1965 in Lund, Sweden, Göran Hugo Olsson was educated at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm and is one of Sweden’s leading filmmakers internationally. He is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and manufacturer of his own innovation – the A-Cam, a Super-16 film camera. He was editor and co-founder of the short documentary television program ”Ikon” (SVT).
His previous film The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011) became a huge hit in festivals, theatres and TV broadcasts worldwide.
Olsson has since 1999 been a member of the Editorial board of Ikon South Africa – a platform for creative documentary in South Africa by township filmmakers in cooperation with South African national broadcaster SABC.
Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialist Self-Defense (2014)
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
Am I Black Enough For You (2008)
Three years ago, my film The Black Power Mixtape premiered at a festival at a ski resort in Utah. Since then I have done hundreds of Q&As, about 500 interviews, travelled 200 days and slept 27 nights on planes. The Black Power Mixtape has had a theatrical release in 18 countries and 42 cities in the US; I’ve taken part in an endless string of film festivals – having met thousands of people in a discussion around images of yesterday, and the significance of this time period for the present situation, not least in northern Africa after the events of the Arab Spring.
A recurring question I get is why the Mixtape ends in 1975? The answer is, partly, because the Swedish attention was directed elsewhere in the mid 70s. And that was partly due to the liberation struggle in Africa and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. From roughly 1975 on, to the fall of the apartheid system in the early 90s, Swedish filmmakers and journalists were traveling the African continent and got some remarkable footage. We wanted to use this for two reasons.
Firstly, this is too good to be lying in the basement of Swedish Television vaults. These films are an important part in understanding our history. Secondly, the material carries a cinematic beauty and wisdom that makes sense today. It´s hard to explain, but it seems that if you travel very far with a heavy 16 mm camera, you will make sure to get some good footage. It was important to me that my next film should have the same qualities as the Mixtape: an openness and simplicity that allows the viewer to make sense of complex issues in a contemporary and inviting way. I think I learned a lot about how to make a film – and especially a film based on archive footage – meet an audience. One of the elements is that it should be about the material itself, and be clear on this – without being a pure meta film. In Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialist Self-Defense we want to take a step further in working with archive material.
Sweden’s unique position, as being officially neutral but also materially supportive of the ANC, made it possible for filmmakers and journalists to create unique and stunning images from this time when history was at a pivotal point. When you see these films today you are struck by how biased they were, and how the filmmakers were totally lost in their political views. The use of older archival material reveals perspectives and prejudices that are clear, enabling viewers to see beyond them. Precisely because the footage is from an earlier time period, it opens provocative discussions about current issues without pushing everyone’s buttons. The films in the Swedish Archive might have been part of a patronizing perspective at the time, but thirty years later, we think they reveal something important about this time to Europeans, Americans and Africans – as well as others across the world who have been on either side of colonization, or are experiencing it now.
As Europeans, we have enormous concerns about making a film on what happens to people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Even attempting to make films about Africa can be an imperialist and patronizing exercise: the European media’s contemporary description of the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the fastest growing economic region in the world is symptomatic of just this.
The approach of our project is different.
What is unique about the archival images in Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialist Self-Defense is how they display this crucial period in a new way that we hope will illuminate how dedicated so many people were in the struggle for freedom. And how that work must and will continue. This is a film with a goal: to motivate people to work for liberation; told with cinematic style that enables people to think for themselves.