Abderrahmane Sissako's celebrated Bamako (2006) stages a public trial of the debt policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Africa in a shared courtyard in Bamako. By putting both western and African film aesthetics and modes of spectatorship also on trial through formal strategies of address and mise en scène, it appears a stylised return to the politically engaged social realism of Ousmane Sembène. Yet, by allowing an astonishing array of matter (human and non-human, real and fictional) to drift graphically into its frame and intrude into the very law of the economic and geopolitical, Bamako also insists on material process and aesthetic friction, opening up new hybrid spaces of spectatorial speculation and interpretation in postcolonial art cinema not bound by the demands of allegory and ideological thinking. Focusing in close detail on the intricate, self-reflexive rifts and fractures of montage in two discrete episodes (an extended scene of migration testimony, a suicide followed by funeral procession), the author shows how Sissako’s poetic investment in form not only exposes but also directly resists the hegemonic violence the film implacably relates. Such formations of violent beauty demand we reconceive the very nature of political aesthetics and the function of screen violence.