I have chosen to explore the work of Frantz Fanon particularly at his
written work “black skin white mask” and also the documentary film produced by Isaac
Julien and Mark Nash. Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask, does retain and demand respect for its
subjects perhaps because he isn’t talked about but represented. Isaac Julien in collaboration with Mark Nash have
produced a Biography/History film isn’t exactly a
documentary, and it not a drama, though an actor portrays the film’s subject. “It’s
a fact-filled dream, a meditation with a poetic texture on the life of a
controversial black intellectual”. I’m going to discuss the book and compare
and argue if the directors depict the book and Frantz Fanon correctly which to
develop a theoretical and/or historical perspective through further research.

 

Frantz Fanon
grew up in a wealthy family in the Martinique, Martinique is a rugged Caribbean island that’s part of the Lesser
Antilles. An overseas region of France. He went to school in France and became a psychiatrist. After
volunteering for the free French army during the Second World War, he then spent
several years in Algeria just before and during the revolution. Because of his
life and education, Fanon had a unique perspective to criticize and analyze
colonialism and decolonization. He is
especially interested in the experience of Black people from French-colonized
islands in the Caribbean, like himself, who have come to live in France
themselves. He explores how these people are encouraged by a racist society to
want to become white, but then experience serious psychological problems
because they aren’t able to do so.

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He speculated
that because colonies were created and maintained in violence, that a colony
could only decolonize through violence. Frantz Fanon’s Black
Skin, White Masks is a stirring glimpse into the mindset of a black man
living in a white man’s world. He combines philosophy, autobiography, case study and psychoanalytic theory
to describe and analyze the experience of Black men and women in
white-controlled societies.  In the book Fanon starts off his argument with
explaining and describing how colonialism and decolonization are violent activities.

He saw violence as the best means to throw off the false consciousness of
colonialism and envisioned a brotherhood or comradeship of free and equal
people. “It is Fanon’s similarity with Martin Luther King, Jr. that is most
interesting. In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King makes many of the same
arguments as Fanon, but proposes a better solution revolving around justice.”
Fanon’s obsession with violence it at the core of his argument, however
non-violent direct action, according to King, would be a better way to achieve
freedom and equality because ultimately unjust action does not bring about
justice. 

Fanon
approaches the subject of racism from a psychoanalytic viewpoint rather than
from a sociological stance. To Fanon, racism is a psychological disease which
has infected all men and all societies. He argues that the black man is
constantly trying, but never fully succeeding, to be white and to assimilate
into the white man’s world. Fanon was a psychiatrist so, naturally, he analyzed
the problem of racism as such. Based on today’s racism, many would try to
classify racism as a sociological problem. Fanon, however, looked at racism as
a psychological obstacle in the path of humankind’s realization of its true
potential. “When there are no more slaves, there are no masters.” While he does acknowledge the existence of a
socioeconomic divide that coincides with racism, he does not believe that
poverty and social inferiority are the worst consequences of racism. He believed
that the psychological damage is the worst problem resulting from racism.

Unlike the blatant discrimination, violence and hatred associated with the
anti-black racism of the United States prior to the Civil Rights Movement,
racism in the French world was less obvious and more psychological than
physical. This psychological discrepancy, Fanon argues, is more damaging and
much harder to overcome and resist than physical racial abuse. A certain way to
overcome racism is to have a sense of self-worth, respect and to really know
yourself. If one can achieve this, they will no longer compare themselves to
others, so the psychological effects of racism will not have any demeanor on
them. However, Fanon argues that this is may not be possible for the black man
to do. People, in general, and especially those who have been constantly
oppressed, have a tremendously difficult time determining and accepting their
own self-worth by their own accord,

“The Antillean
does not possess a personal value of his own and is always dependent on the
value of ‘the Other.’ The question is always whether he is less intelligent
than I, blacker than I, or less good than I. Every self-positioning or
self-fixation maintains a relationship or dependency on the collapse of the
other. It’s on the ruins of my entourage that I build my virility.”  The only way the black man knows how to build
his self-worth is to destroy the worth of another. But, unfortunately, since
the black man is in no position to downgrade white people, they must attack
other blacks to build their self-worth. This creates a vicious cycle in which
the black man keeps himself and his people down and the white man can remain in
power without even doing anything. “The Martinicans are hungry for
reassurance. They want their wishful thinking to be recognized. They want their
wish for virility to be recognized Each of them wants to be, wants to flaunt
himself.” From reading this book
its given me an insight into racial discrimination, what its like living in a “white
mans world as a black man” and different insights into the views of Frantz
Fanon from reading this book and collecting an understanding I’ve now chosen to
look into the Combining
archival footage, interviews and dramatic re-enactments of Isaac Julien’s and
mark Nash’s film.

Isaac Julien and Mark Nash have
created an intellectually and emotionally involving film. From reading the book
and then going to watch this with the knowledge that I already had was
interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I really wanted to see if the
directors managed to depict Fanons life in the correct way. Julien
and Nash aren’t interested in turning Fanon’s life into anecdote or melodrama –
that’s not why they use an actor – but having Colin Salmon embody Fanon makes
the criticism in the film seem like things said to someone’s face, not behind
his back. Fanon identified some crucial issues. His admirers don’t expect him
to have resolved them.

The directors have created a sort of biopic-meets-docudrama and having Colin
Salmon starring as Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born Marxist intellectual who
became the doyen of national liberation movements around the world before dying
in America aged just 36. Fanon charismatic
black intellectual, psychiatrist and revolutionary, whose essays and books
influenced the anti-colonial and civil rights movements worldwide, is
celebrated in “Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask.” My understanding
is that the film’s title is
taken from his 1952 work about black identity (the film was released in 1996)–
and also his involvement in the long-running and brutal Algerian war of
independence. In this film they’re using archive footage, dramatic
re-enactments and re-imaginings, and interviews with people who knew Fanon
(including his brother, his former colleagues and noted cultural theorist
Stuart Hall), Director Isaac paints a fascinating picture of his subject
without shying away from showing his flaws and contradictions. It also draws
parallels between Fanon’s life, and understanding illusions as an outcast in
Paris and the course of the anti-colonial movement. In this film the directors
create “Frantz Fanon” as
a strong case for blurring the conventional distinction between documentary and
fiction cinema, resulting in a work of great intelligence and poetic power.  ‘In many ways, Frantz Fanon has always been a part of my life. Even
today we face the unfinished business of Arab revolutions and religious
fundamentalism – these are themes that Fanon tackled at an earlier moment, and
that still resonate.’ – Isaac Julien.