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.

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

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,

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
it’s given me an insight into racial discrimination, what it’s like living in a
“white man’s 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 is
celebrated in “Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask.” “I do
not come with timeless truths. My consciousness is not illuminated with
ultimate radiances.” Appropriately, the first words uttered by the subject
of Isaac Julien’s Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask are
elusive. This self-introduction, using language that is seemingly deprecating,
even negative, is typically artful, and followed by the philosopher/cultural
critic’s unavoidable, real point: “Nevertheless,” he says, “in
complete composure, I think it would be good if certain things were said. These
things I am going to say, not shout, for it is a long time since shouting has
gone out of my life, so very long.” 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

I really got into this documentary film and it helped with
furthering my research. They build a strong outcome of Fanon and portray him as
the charismatic
black intellectual, psychiatrist and revolutionary, whose essays and books
influenced the anti-colonial and civil rights movements worldwide, also   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.



I wondered if any artists had portrayed the same theory “black
skin white mask” and if I could relate to the artwork not just in a book or documentary
but visually as a piece of art or an instillation and for me Andrew Gilbert did
exactly that. Andrew Gilbert born in Edinburgh, Scotland now lives and works in
berlin. Two pieces that stood out for me were During the Battle of Rorke’s
Drift 2014
Acrylic on canvas and Fix Bayonets and Die like
British Soldiers Die 2007 these pieces of artwork I believe depicts the same
message and theory. Tate Britan held an
exhibition that was the first large-scale
presentation of the art associated with the British Empire from the 16th
century to the present day, exploring how a diverse range of artists from
across the globe responded to the experience of empire. In Andrew gilberts words “Many
conflicts in the world today are the result of the arbitrary borders created by
European empires. Also, as in the 19th century, the invasions and occupations
of foreign countries today are motivated by control of resources rather than
ideals such as democracy or civilization. The language of propaganda and demonization
of the exotic enemy is also very relevant now. The red uniform is still worn
for ritualistic parades that are used to enforce the idea of nation and power –
which also make very good images for postcards for tourists.”


“My obsession began as a child after
seeing the 1964 film Zulu, which is about
the Battle of Rourke’s Drift between the British and the Zulus. It has been
many people’s introduction to the idea of the British Empire story. I wondered
why a film about shooting black people in South Africa was so popular – and why
it was always shown at Christmas. As a child, I compared the Zulu War with the
Jacobite rebellion in Scotland: a charging ‘primitive’ army facing lines of red
coats with superior weapons. It was this strange romanticized view, which I
then began to parody. I later studied primitivism in modern art at university
and how Western artists romanticized ‘savage’ art. I began to make my own
European fetish objects to show how primitive European society is.”
From reading what Andrew has to say about the background of his work it doesn’t
relate entirely and also him being a white man doesn’t have the knowledge of
experiencing racism but I believe there are strong relations with the book of
Frantz Fanon and the Art here.


In conclusion, I wanted 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. Isaac Julien in collaboration with Mark Nash
have produced a Biography/History film isn’t exactly a
documentary. I desired 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. I
believe that they portrayed fanon and his life in a respectful yet powerful way
and also the work of Andrew Gilbert. I’ve got the required outcome and
knowledge of Fanon and explored the historical and theoretical life and
knowledge that has been shown through these visual artifacts.