. An urgent, necessary homage: “Fanon: Yesterday, Today” by Hassane Mezine | Ceasefire Magazine

Film | An urgent, necessary homage: “Fanon: Yesterday, Today” by Hassane Mezine

“Fanon: Hier, Aujourd’hui,” a landmark documentary film by Hassane Mezine is a worthy homage and testament to Fanon's life and legacy, writes Rachida Lamri.

Arts & Culture, Film & TV, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Friday, June 7, 2019 14:15 - 0 Comments

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Fanon: hier, aujourd’hui

Directed by Hassan Mezine

87 minutes – 2018

“Fanon: Hier, Aujourd’hui” (Fanon: Yesterday, Today), the debut documentary film by Hassane Mezine, is a remarkable testament to the life and legacy of Frantz Fanon, the great Martinican-born thinker, philosopher and psychiatrist. The 87-minute groundbreaking feature sheds a welcome new light on the spectre of Fanon’s work and teachings, still a revolutionaries’ bible and a lifeline for anyone engaged in the quest for decolonisation.

In this film, Mezine, who previously worked alongside the indomitable anti-colonial film-director René Vautier, methodically and meticulously explores the timelessness and urgent relevance of Fanon today, following his story from the early engagement against Nazism, to his ultimate fight against colonialism. Mezine delivers an intellectual yet poignant testimony of Fanon’s utter brilliance, in a gripping two-parter: Yesterday and Today.

Yesterday:

The project started with Mezine’s discovery of rare interview footage of Abdelhamid Mehri, a former minister in the (pre-independence) Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria. “A friend of mine had filmed the interview,” Mezine explains, “in which [Mehri] talks about Fanon and his pivotal role in the Algerian revolution”. The interview prompted Mezine to embark on a journey that would take him three years, and a fair bit of travelling, in pursuit of Fanon’s legacy.

Mezine marshals an impressive collection of people who knew Fanon and worked alongside him during his years of revolutionary struggle in Algeria, Tunis, Mali and Europe. He speaks to Fanon’s son, Olivier, as well as to Marie-Jeanne Manuellan, Fanon’s assistant during his days at the neuro-psychiatric hospital in Tunis and author of “Sous la dictée de Fanon,” a book about her experience. There are many others voices, principally comrades and colleagues including Raphael Confiant, the Martinican author of “Frantz Fanon: “L’insurrection de l’âme: Frantz Fanon, vie et mort du guerrier-silex”.

Frantz Fanon with his son, Olivier, in Tunisia.

Soon after the launch of the Algerian revolution, on November 1st, 1954, Fanon joined the ranks of the FLN (National Liberation Front). For him, the then-prevailing state of affairs, of oppression and injustice, made it impossible not to choose a side. He chose to fight injustice, and viewed the revolutionary insurrection in Algeria as the logical consequence of an attempt to oppress, decerebralise and alienate an entire people. As such, he viewed Algeria’s struggle for independence as a test-case for the rest of Africa.

A staunch defender of democracy and human rights, Fanon was first and foremost a humanist who advocated via his teachings and writings the intrinsic consequences of establishing a social movement for the decolonisation of both individuals and people through the analysis of the dehumanising effects of colonisation upon colonised subjects and communities. His most eminent publications include Black Skin, White masks, published in 1952, and The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, days before his untimely death. Fanon did not live to see an independent Algeria; he died of Leukaemia on December 6th, 1961, at the age of 36, in a hospital near Washington, DC. His body was later repatriated to Algeria, as per his wishes, where he rests today.

Today:

The world has changed a great deal since 1962, not least with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the soviet Union. Mezine shows that today, more so than Yesterday, Fanon remains as relevant as ever, and that his theories on alienation and decolonisation are profoundly far reaching, as amply demonstrated during Mezine’s odyssey journeying across the US, Portugal, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, France, Martinique and Palestine.

Fanon’s revolutionary and post-colonial theories still resonate today, not only in the ex-colonies where the deep scars and ongoing violence of colonialism, neo-colonialism, dictatorship, alienation, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, infrastructural decay, inter-ethnic enmity and religious intolerance constitute a daily struggle, but also in the West, where these same forces and dynamics drive the global imperialist agenda of enriching the 1% at the expense of the majority. 

Mezine crucially touches on the question of post-independence national bourgeoisie(s), who have come to internalise and assimilate colonialist thought, engendering amongst many consequences a selective humanism that denies the fundamental elements of the humanity of communities, relegating them to the status of anomalies. However, perhaps the most thought-provoking, piercing quote here comes from Houria Bouteldja’s, a French-Algerian activist and author, on the ever illusionary and mutating imperialism, “We are the post-colonial subjects of Europe; we are the South in the North.”

Mezine’s groundbreaking film, much like Fanon’s body of work, has since reached audiences far and wide, with screenings taking place in Algeria, Martinique, Tunisia, France, Belgium, Spain, Guadeloupe, and the UK. In a world where reading Fanon remains a revolutionary act, and where the Fanonian oeuvre is often ignored or sidelined — viewed as simply a dissident ideology that calls for violence against the oppressor — the very existence of this film constitutes a significant contribution to the unfinished project that is the decolonisation and de-racialisation of society, and the world.

“Fanon: Hier, Aujourd’hui” is back on the screen in London next week, on Monday 10th June, at the Curzon Goldsmiths University in London. Further screenings are scheduled later this year in South Africa, Portugal, Mexico, Columbia, Canada and the US. For a full list of screenings, and further updates, visit the film’s official page

Fanon hier, aujourd’hui – Fanon yesterday, today – فانون ال بارح اليوم from Hassane MEZINE on Vimeo.

 

Rachida Lamri

Rachida Lamri is a writer, musician and an activist. Founder of the Cultural Organisation Culturama and a member of the Algeria Solidarity Campaign. She takes great interest in Arab and African Culture and civil society movements.

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