Film review: The Devil by Jean Gabriel Periot

“You don't know what we are”: a battle-cry that is almost a statement of intent. Made of archival and found footage, The Devil is composed of fragments and testimonials from the Black Panther Party struggle against oppression, composing a visual essay that documents the history of the movement and the way it developed.

Whilst on surface level this might appear like a simple historical document, Periot's film does much more: by taking the oppressed minority par excellence as an example, it speaks for all those that have been cyclically turned into 'Others'. In doing so, The Devil goes beyond historical specificity, becoming a wider comment on the near-universal tendency of perceiving difference as a menace, an enemy to be annihilated. 

“You think you know what we are, but you don't know what we are”. Initially, this sounds defiant if not downright threatening; however, we soon come to realize that it is rather a mere acknowledgement of how prejudice works. Similarly, speeches about not mimicking white people, or the final “We are black […] and we are beautiful!” resonate as declarations of pride in one's own diversity, also on a wider level.

As such, The Devil's strength lies precisely in its ability to be at once a historically accurate documentary and a relevant criticism of contemporary society, using past issues as a way to discuss current ones. The picture it paints, however, is grim: if what was at stake forty or fifty years ago continues to be relevant today, how much has really changed?

Author: Chiara Puntil*

Title: The Devil

Director: Jean Gabriel Periot

Year: 2012

Run time: 7'50''

Genre: Documentary

Country: France

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*Every day Cineuropa Shorts, in collaboration with Nisimazine and Lago Film Fest (18-26 July), offers you film reviews and interviews made in Lago by the brilliant Nisimazine’s team of young journalists.

19 July 2014, by Nisimazine