No Cover Image

Killer Images: Documentary Film, Memory, and the Performance of Violence

JORAM TEN BRINK
JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER
Series: Nonfictions
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ten-16334
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Killer Images
    Book Description:

    Cinema has long shaped not only how mass violence is perceived but also how it is performed. Today, when media coverage is central to the execution of terror campaigns and news anchormen serve as embedded journalists, a critical understanding of how the moving image is implicated in the imaginations and actions of perpetrators and survivors of violence is all the more urgent. If the cinematic image and mass violence are among the defining features of modernity, the former is significantly implicated in the latter, and the nature of this implication is the book's central focus.

    This book brings together a range of newly commissioned essays and interviews from the world's leading academics and documentary filmmakers, including Ben Anderson, Errol Morris, Harun Farocki, Rithy Phan, Avi Mograbi, Brian Winston, and Michael Chanan. Contributors explore such topics as the tension between remembrance and performance, the function of moving images in the execution of political violence, and nonfiction filmmaking methods that facilitate communities of survivors to respond to, recover, and redeem a history that sought to physically and symbolically annihilate them

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85024-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Joram ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer
  4. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1914, Mexican bandit turned revolutionary, Pancho Villa, starred in an action movie calledThe Life of General Villa. The Mutual Film Corporation offered Villa $25,000 and 50 per cent of the film’s profits. Villa accepted, eager for the additional finance it brought to his campaign against the armies of Porfirio Diaz. The deal required that Pancho Villa fight his battles by daylight and in front of Mutual’s rolling cameras, and that he re-enact them if more footage was needed. In the words of the Mutual Film Corporation president, Villa agreed ‘to run his part of the insurrection for moving...

  6. (DE)ACTIVATING EMPATHY
    • PUBLICITY AND INDIFFERENCE: MEDIA, SURVEILLANCE AND ‘HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION’
      (pp. 15-40)
      Thomas Keenan

      In his too-hasty indictment of the 1999 NATO air campaign over Kosovo,Strategy of Deception, Paul Virilio suggests that there was a determined relation between the ‘humanitarian’ dimension of this very first ‘human rights conflict’ and the ‘truly panoptical vision’ which NATO brought to bear on the battlefield (2000: 19–21).¹

      After the eye of God pursuing Cain all the way into the tomb, we now havethe eye of Humanityskimming over the oceans and continents in search of criminals. One gets an idea, then, of the ethical dimension of the Global Information Dominance programme, the attributes of which...

    • SHOOTING WITH INTENT: FRAMING CONFLICT
      (pp. 41-62)
      Alisa Lebow

      It is a curious and not insignificant etymological coincidence that in some languages, the verb ‘to shoot’ is used to mean both the firing of a gun and the filming of an image. Ever since the invention of the moving image, there has been an intimate and mutually dependent relationship between the camera and the gun. One of the very first prototypes for the motion picture camera, Etienne-Jules Marey’s‘Fusil Photographique’, was fashioned out of and modelled upon the revolving rifle able to ‘shoot’ twelve photographs per second in rapid succession.

      Here, at the origins of cinema, we find an inspiration...

    • IMMERSION (2009) 2 videos, colour, sound, 20 minutes (loop)
      (pp. 63-66)
      Harun Farocki

      We are familiar with worlds of artificial imagery from computer games. We would like to show how they are used constructively in ways that go beyond selfcontained fictional universes. How they are used against the sobering backdrop of military reality, namely in the training of US troops before their deployment to combat zones and in the provision of adequate post-deployment care on their return.

      The possibilities presented by virtual reality offer obvious advantages when it comes to preparing soldiers for the difficult tasks awaiting them in often unfamiliar, exotic surroundings.

      A hybrid of actual and virtual reality known asaugmented...

    • ANAESTHETISING THE IMAGE: IMMERSION, HARUN FARCOCKI
      (pp. 67-79)
      Kodwo Eshun

      Following a public screening of the first rough-cut version of his filmImmersionin 2009 at the Goethe Institute in London, the German director Harun Farocki discussed his film project with the artist and critic Kodwo Eshun (co-founder of the Otolith Group).

      Kodwo Eshun: At the end of the film we see the first session in what these therapists call VRET – virtual reality exposure therapy.

      Harun Farocki: What you saw was a workshop, or training seminar. There’s a group in America that has invented virtual reality exposure therapy. The man with the ponytail at the beginning, he’s one of the...

    • REVISITING ROCHA’S ‘AESTHETICS OF VIOLENCE’
      (pp. 80-94)
      Michael Chanan

      At the end of the first part ofLa hora de los hornos(The Hour of the Furnaces, 1968) by the Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, after a lengthy analysis of the history of neo-colonialism in Argentina, we arrive at a cemetery in the desolate countryside of the northwest province of Jujuy, bordering on Chile and Bolivia, where a funeral is taking place. Indigenous peasants in bedraggled clothing, heads bowed, men and women walking in silent desultory procession; the camera walks with them, weaving in and out, a solitary voice intones a prayer, they drink from old bottles....

  7. MEMORY OF VIOLENCE:: VISUALISING TRAUMA
    • ‘ÇA VA DE SOI’: THE VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE IN THE HOLOCAUST DOCUMENTARY
      (pp. 97-119)
      Brian Winston

      We have exactly 1’59” of moving images of the mass execution of Jews in Eastern Europe during World War II. Taken by a German non-commissioned naval officer, Reinhard Wiener, out for a stroll with his 8mm Kodak movie camera in the port of Liepaja, Latvia’s third city, sometime in July/August 1941, it shows members of anEinsatzgruppe– mobile killing squad – at work. There are civilian bystanders, local Latvian militiamen and German police in attendance as well as the SS as Jewish men are of offloaded from an open truck and forced to run to an open pit where they are...

    • SCREEN MEMORY IN WALTZ WITH BASHIR
      (pp. 120-126)
      Garrett Stewart

      A cartoon anti-war movie? In Avi Folman’sWaltz with Bashir(2008), given an Israeli combat plot cast into flashback within an animated story of post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss, what kind of hurdles to political conviction or even good taste does this animation erect? Or what ironies release? Following on from all the contemporary war films about American incursions in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan (with the digital blitz of their high-tech quasi-documentary treatment),¹ what isWaltz with Bashirafter in returning us not just to a former Middle East bloodshed, but to the literal drawing board?

      Despite assumptions in...

    • ANIMATING TRAUMA: WALTZ WITH BASHIR, DAVID POLONSKY
      (pp. 127-135)
      Joram ten Brink

      David Polonsky, art director of the animated documentary filmWaltz with Bashir(2008), lives and works as an illustrator and art director in Tel Aviv, Israel.

      Joram ten Brink:The film is about war, trauma, memory and trying to recover images of war.Waltz with Bashiris extraordinary in the way it takes documentary and pushes it into areas beyond representation of war; how do we understand war and violence through animation?

      David Polonsky: I think my main concern was not to get carried away with the aesthetics of war. Because it’s really easy to make ‘pretty pictures’ that are...

    • SPACES OF VIOLENCE: HISTORY, HORROR AND THE CINEMA OF KIYOSHI KUROSAWA
      (pp. 136-151)
      Adam Lowenstein

      In 2005, the Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa attended a special screening of his breakthrough horror filmKairo(Pulse, 2001) at the Japan Society in New York. The film was on the eve of a belated, limited theatrical release in the United States just ahead of its American remake. In his comments before and after the screening, Kurosawa located himself squarely within the resurgence of Japanese horror films beginning in the 1990s called ‘J-horror’, mentioning two of the phenomenon’s most successful examples, Hideo Nakata’sRingu(Ring, 1998) and Takashi Shimizu’sJu-on(The Grudge, 2003), as reference points. However, Kurosawa did not...

    • ON HISTORICAL VIOLENCE AND AESTHETIC FORM: JEAN-LUC GODARD’S ALLEMAGNE 90 NEUF ZÉRO
      (pp. 152-166)
      Daniel Morgan

      In the late 1960s and early 1970s, political cinema – both Western and non-Western – was largely defined by its connection to ongoing political struggles. It is an imperative found in European efforts, following May ’68, to combine political commitment within films with a model of collective, collaborative production. It is also found in the declaration of a ‘Third Cinema’ by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, in which all aspects of cinema – production, distribution, reception – were bound up with revolutionary activity.¹ This is the idea of political cinema most commonly held up as exemplary. Something began to change, however, in the late...

  8. BATTLE FOR HISTORY:: APPROPRIATING THE PAST IN THE PRESENT
    • SUBVERTING DOMINANT HISTORICAL NARRATIVES: AVENGE BUT ONE OF MY TWO EYES, AVI MOGRABI
      (pp. 169-175)
      Joram ten Brink

      Avi Mograbi, a documentary film director, lives and works in Tel Aviv, Israel.Avenge But One of My Two Eyes(Nekom Achat Meshtai Einai) was produced in 2005 as a French/Israeli co-production.

      Joram ten Brink:One of things that strike me is your work at the checkpoints full of images of the violence, humiliation, frustration and pain in these places. You developed that style over the years, with you as the provocateur, as the man with the film camera.

      Avi Mograbi: It wasn’t my intention to provoke or intervene in the situation. There are lots of situations in the film...

    • RE-ENACTMENT, THE HISTORY OF VIOLENCE AND DOCUMENTARY FILM
      (pp. 176-189)
      Joram ten Brink

      The philosopher R. G. Collingwood, in his seminal workThe Idea of History(1946), discusses the notion of re-enactment in the modern philosophy of history.¹ As early as 1928 he had already introduced his idea of re-enactment as a valid concept and method in the work of an historian. The historian’s work is incomplete if reliant solely on documents and artefacts from the past:

      How, or on what conditions, can the historian know the past? […] The first point to notice is that the past is never a given fact which he can apprehend empirically by perception.Ex hypothesi, the...

    • INTERPRETING JEREMY DELLER’S THE BATTLE OF ORGREAVE
      (pp. 190-205)
      Alice Correia

      Jeremy Deller’sThe Battle of Orgreave(2001) has primarily been discussed in direct relation to the violent clashes between picketing miners and police during the 1984–85 Miners’ Strike in the UK. As a performed re-enactment of violence which took place on 18 June 1984, the work has been positioned within a narrative of the Miners’ Strike that allows retrospective consideration of the political and social ramifications of the industrial action.¹ Whilst these interpretations are undoubtedly important, it is my contention thatThe Battle of Orgreaveneeds to be considered from a variety of perspectives, and that identifying a broader...

    • REMEDIATING GENOCIDAL IMAGES INTO ARTWORKS: THE CASE OF THE TUOL SLENG MUG SHOTS
      (pp. 206-223)
      Stéphanie Benzaquen

      The Vietnamese army reached Phnom Penh on 7 January 1979 after a two-week blitzkrieg in Cambodia. Their arrival in the capital city marked the end of Democratic Kampuchea, the regime established by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. In less than four years, Pol Pot and his comrades had starved, worked to death and massacred hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen. While exploring the desolated streets of Phnom Penh on that day in January 1979, two Vietnamese photojournalists came across a barricaded high school. It was S-21 (the other name of Tuol Sleng), the prison where thesantebal(Khmer...

    • SCREENING THE 1965 VIOLENCE
      (pp. 224-240)
      Ariel Heryanto

      The relationship between film and the history of the infamous 1965–66 massacres that gave rise to Indonesia’s New Order regime (1966–98) is not new.¹ To a significant extent, the justification for the massacre, the silence about its occurrence and the legitimacy of the New Order’s authoritarianism could be maintained for over three decades thanks to the regime’s successful propaganda, of which the nearly four-and-a-half-hour-long film calledPengkhianatan G 30 September(1984) was a part. For at least the first ten years of its circulation, the film was either the primary or the only available source of detailed information...

  9. PERFORMING VIOLENCE
    • PERPETRATORS’ TESTIMONY AND THE RESTORATION OF HUMANITY: S21, RITHY PANH
      (pp. 243-255)
      Joshua Oppenheimer

      Rithy Panh (b. 1964, Cambodia) works as a film director in France, where he has lived since 1980. Following a screening in London in 2009 of his documentary filmS21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine(2003), Panh discussed his film with Joshua Oppenheimer.

      Joshua Oppenheimer:About the production method itself: it’s extremely interesting the way you use re-enactment and the way you elicit bodily memories and the way you develop [a] pretty and accurate and precise excavation of what happened and of people’s memories through a sustained filmmaking method, which culminates in bringing the survivors together with their guards. I’d...

    • THE KILLER’S SEARCH FOR ABSOLUTION: Z32, AVI MOGRABI
      (pp. 256-267)
      Joram ten Brink

      Avi Mograbi, a documentary film director, lives and works in Tel Aviv, Israel.Z32was produced in 2009 as a French/Israeli co-production.

      Joram ten Brink:Can we start by discussing the use of a digital mask in Z32 to conceal the identity of the soldier?

      Avi Mograbi: This was done in response to his demands, that his identity would not be exposed. He wanted to travel to London and not be arrested in Heathrow. He was fearful because he participated in a revenge operation. You can understand, although it almost never happens – in his mind he also can become a...

    • IMPUNITY
      (pp. 268-286)
      Benedict Anderson

      There is a jolting moment in Jean Rouch’s famous ‘anthropological’ filmMoi, Un Noir(1958), about a small, attractive group of young males from then French colonial Niger trying to find work in the more prosperous, but still French colonial, Côte d’Ivoire. We see them periodically at work, but most of the film shows them at leisure, drinking, joking and hooking up with women, so that the atmosphere is generally lively and cheerful. But toward the end, we find the main character, who calls himself Edward G. Robinson (parallel to a friend who names himself Lemmy Caution), walking with a...

    • SHOW OF FORCE: A CINEMA-SÉANCE OF POWER AND VIOLENCE IN SUMATRA’S PLANTATION BELT
      (pp. 287-310)
      Joshua Oppenheimer and Michael Uwemedimo

      On the night of 30 September 1965, six of Indonesia’s top army generals were abducted and murdered in an abortive coup attempt. Who was ultimately behind this operation, and their final objectives, remains unclear.² In a response that appears to have been remarkably well rehearsed, General Suharto seized control of the armed forces and instigated a series of nationwide purges to consolidate his power. Suharto engineered and set in motion a killing machine whose chain of command reached into every region and every village, murdering alleged communists, trade unionists, organised peasants, members of the women’s movement and anybody else the...

    • MISUNDERSTANDING IMAGES: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, ERROL MORRIS
      (pp. 311-324)
      Joshua Oppenheimer

      Errol Morris, a documentary film director, lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Standard Operating Procedurewas produced in 2008 in the USA.

      Errol Morris: Part of the problem with talking about images, photographic images in particular, and violence, is that people really don’t understand photography to begin with. They don’t understand the effect that images have on us, how we deal with images, how we often make inappropriate inferences from images. Probably because when our brains were put together by natural selection, sight was given this privileged place among the senses. We think that having seen something – even if it’s...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 325-332)