Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask explores for the first time on film the pre-eminent theorist of the anti-colonial movements of this century. Fanon’s two major works, Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, were pioneering studies of the psychological impact of racism on both colonized and colonizer. Jean-Paul Sartre recognized Fanon as the figure “through whose voice the Third World finds and speaks for itself.” This innovative film biography restores Fanon to his rightful place at the center of contemporary discussions around post-colonial identity.
Isaac Julien, the celebrated black British director of such provocative films as Looking for Langston and Young Soul Rebels, integrates the facts of Fanon’s brief but remarkably eventful life with his long and tortuous inner journey. Julien elegantly weaves together interviews with family members and friends, documentary footage, readings from Fanon’s work and dramatizations of crucial moments in Fanon’s life. Cultural critics Stuart Hall and Françoise Verges position Fanon’s work in his own time and draw out its implications for our own.
Born in Martinique in 1925, Fanon received a conventional colonial education. When he went to France to fight in the Resistance and train as a psychiatrist, his assimilationist illusions were shattered by the gaze of metropolitan racism. Out of this experience came his first book Black Skin, White Masks (1952) originally titled “An Essay for the Disalienation of Blacks.” Fanon here defined the colonial relationship as the psychological non-recognition of the subjectivity of the colonized.
Soon after taking a position at a psychiatric hospital in Algeria, Fanon became involved in the bitter Algerian civil war, eventually leaving his post to become a full-time militant in the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). Out of this struggle, Fanon wrote his most influential book, The Wretched of the Earth, which Stuart Hall describes as the “bible of the decolonization movement.”
Fanon died of leukemia in 1961, just as Algeria was winning its independence. But his seminal texts continue to challenge us to liberate ourselves from all forms of psychological domination.