Wreckage Upon Wreckage: History, Documentary and the Ruins of Memory

Arden Henley
Friday 8 December 2023

Rabinowitz, Paula. History and Theory volume 32, no. 2 (May 1993), pp. 119-137.

In this insightful article, Paula Rabinowitz writes that documentary films ask their audiences to consider memory, both individual and collective, as well as their place in it. The article provides an overview of cinema and memory, and examines how documentaries use the image both to recreate historical and personal memories and to humanize those memories. She uses the landmark documentary Shoah (1984) as a case study throughout.

Other items in this library reflect on film’s potential to change minds, and while many of them focus on fiction films, documentary films have that same potential, if not more of it. Through her study of film theory and of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, Rabinowitz interrogates the question of how we create images that speak to memory, political engagement, and resistance. We can use the lessons she imparts to create images that encourage and create peace and peacebuilding processes. Rabinowitz and Lanzmann both emphasize documentary not as a top-down, authority-based approach, but as deeply individual and human. The same things can be said of peace–it is a fundamentally community-based, memory-based, and action-based endeavor, and one that is absolutely crucial to human existence.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2505348.pdf

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