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Film and Genocide

Kristi M. Wilson

Publication Year: 2012

Film and Genocide brings together scholars of film and of genocide to discuss film representations, both fictional and documentary, of the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and genocides in Chile, Australia, Rwanda, and the United States. Since 1955, when Alain Resnais created his experimental documentary Night and Fog about the Nazis’ mass killings of Jews and other ostracized groups, filmmakers have struggled with using this medium to tell such difficult stories, to re-create the sociopolitical contexts of genocide, and to urge awareness and action among viewers. This volume looks at such issues as realism versus fiction, the challenge of depicting atrocities in a manner palatable to spectators and film distributors, the Holocaust film as a model for films about other genocides, and the role of new technologies in disseminating films about genocide.
    Film and Genocide also includes interviews with three film directors, who discuss their experiences in working with deeply disturbing images and bringing hidden stories to life: Irek Dobrowolski, director of The Portraitist (2005) a documentary about Wilhelm Brasse, an Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoner ordered to take more than 40,000 photos at the camp; Nick Hughes, director of 100 Days (2005) a dramatic film about the Rwandan mass killings; and Greg Barker, director of Ghosts of Rwanda (2004), a television documentary for Frontline.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The idea for this collection began in Buenos Aires as we were researching documentary films about genocide in Latin America during the cold war (referred to as Operation Condor) at the 2007 Second International Meeting for the Analysis of the Social Practices...

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pp. 3-18

The term genocide was coined by Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1933 after years of exhaustive study of mass killings in the ancient and medieval contexts in Europe and the Americas. At a law conference in Madrid, Lemkin attempted to frame his...

Part I: Atrocities, Spectatorship, and Memory

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1. Film and Atrocity: The Holocaust as Spectacle

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pp. 21-44

In Norman Denzin’s illuminating appraisal of “cinematic” society, and the gaze of the “voyeur” that has permeated modern and postmodern modes of spectatorship, one can find a critique of “looking” that can be extended to the filmic representation of atrocity and public memory of the Holocaust. This chapter...

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2. Documenting the Holocaust in Orson Welles’s The Stranger

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pp. 45-66

The Stranger, directed by Orson Welles, is a 1946 film featuring Welles as Franz Kindler, an architect of the Holocaust who has erased his past and is hiding out in a small American town biding his time until the Nazis return to power....

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3. Remembering Revolution after Ruin and Genocide: RecentChilean Documentary Films and the Writing of History

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pp. 67-86

Quotidian definitions of genocide tend to emphasize numbers or statistics as the primary methodology for determining whether genocide occurred in a given context. If the number of dead strikes us as large—so the logic goes—then the extermination of an ethnic, racial, religious, or political group amounts to genocide...

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4. “The Power to Imagine” : Genocide, Exile, and Ethical Memoryin Atom Egoyan’s Ararat

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pp. 87-106

Questioned in an interview about how members of the U.S. Congress responded to her seminal book A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002), Samantha Power made the following confession: “I heard nothing. The Armenian community supplied Congress with 100 copies, but I still heard nothing...

Part II: Coloniality and Postcoloniality

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5. Massacre and the Movies: Soldier Blue and the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864

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pp. 109-121

The late 1960s and early 1970s was a period in which filmmakers extended the boundaries of what they saw as their role in helping to shape public awareness of major social and political issues. Films such as M*A*S*H (Robert Altman, 1970) and Catch-22 (Mike Nichols, 1970), for example, were iconoclastic antiwar movies inspired by...

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6. The Other in Genocide: Responsibility and Benevolence in Rabbit-Proof Fence

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pp. 122-132

Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) depicts the true story of the removal of mixed-descent Australian Aboriginal children from their home under the biological absorption plan conducted in Western Australia in the twentieth century in the interwar period. Molly Craig, her sister, Daisy, and cousin, Gracie, were...

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7. Genres of “Yet An Other Genocide” : Cinematic Representations of Rwanda

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pp. 133-154

Seventeen years ex post facto, “Rwanda,” or the misnomer “the Rwandan genocide,” had become a catch-all phrase to signal the failure of Western interventionism and international human rights discourse.1 The horrific events of 1994, when, in one hundred days, more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were slaughtered...

Part III: Visual Documentation andGenocide

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8. The Specter of Genocide in Errol Morris’s The Fog of War

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pp. 157-169

On any given day, with the click of the remote, one can revisit the glories of World War II on the History Channel. Featured shows, such as Patton 360, Battle 360, Hero Ships, Dog Fights, Lost Worlds, Hitler’s Eagles Nest Retreat, and more, offer a never-ending celebration of American bravery during the “good war”: “our all-American war...

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9. GIs Documenting Genocide: Amateur Films of World War II Concentration Camps

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pp. 170-186

Iwant to use these ideas—one voiced by a popular movie critic writing from the American home front in the spring of 1945, the other by a photographer writing retrospectively (in 1963) about her firsthand experiences of the Nazi concentration camps—as a jumping-off point and a frame for this exploration of the all-but-forgotten amateur cinematographic record of concentration...

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10. Through the Open Society Archives to The Portraitist: Film’s Impulse toward Death and Witness

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pp. 187-202

Before flying to Warsaw early in the summer of 2008 to interview Polish documentary director Irek Dobrowolski, I spent a week in Budapest’s Open Society Archives (OSA) grounding myself in the field of film and genocide. For five straight days I took in nonfiction film after video after still photograph, all documenting...

Part IV: Interviews

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11. Greg Barker, Director of Ghosts of Rwanda (2004)

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pp. 205-216

Tell us a little bit about the movie to start us off. The idea was to look not so much at the cause of the genocide, but actually the way in which the international system responded to the genocide, which for me was the deeper question that I wanted to get into. I’m fascinated by the nature of evil and how each one of us reacts when confronted by evil. I didn’t necessarily believe in...

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12. Nick Hughes, Director of 100 Days (2001)

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pp. 217-227

Imagery related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide mostly consists of photographs and videos of the aftermath of violence. Dead, mutilated, and often decomposing bodies scattered around the streets of Kigali and other Rwandan towns as well as recorded testimonies of survivors and perpetrators dominate the aggregate of available images...

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13. Irek Dobrowolski, Director of T,he Portraitist (2005)

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pp. 228-236

The question of my motivation is very simple. If I am a filmmaker, making documentaries, and I meet such a person as Mr. Brasse, the situation is absolutely obvious. I must do everything I can possibly do to make a movie about such a character. He had...


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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-254


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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780299285630
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299285647

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012