Drawing on the prevailing theoretical paradigm of post-Holocaust research, which defines primarily the post-traumatic subject positions of victim and perpetrator, this paper focuses on the Chinese cinema’s representation of collaboration during the Cultural Revolution (CR). It discusses the issue of betrayal inside the real or symbolic family, which is still unexplored and even overlooked by Chinese cinema research. Furthermore, it analyzes the prolonged and profound identity crisis generated by the CR as presented by twenty-first century blockbuster (e.g. Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home) and independent films (e.g. Wu Wenguang’s 1966: My Time in the Red Guards and Investigating My Father) especially through the figure of the collaborator and the destructive dynamics of betrayal. In these films, the process I term the ‘doubling paradigm,’ and its ‘doubling effect’ enable the spectator to come to terms with the dimensions of pain and loss caused by collaboration, and the ethical repercussions of revolutionary morality. Following an analysis of the four forms of collaboration which emerge from this corpus, this discussion points to the potential contribution of Chinese ‘cinema of betrayal’ to the undertheorized subject position of the collaborator, beyond the Chinese case.
This essay aims, first, to describe the under-theorized recent remarkable renaissance of post-Khmer Rouge (KR) cinema generated by women directors, which emerged after the KR regime (1975–79) murdered most of the filmmakers and demolished almost the entire Cambodian film industry; and, second, to analyze first- and second-generation post-traumatic autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical) fiction and non-fiction films that deal with the almost-tabooi-ized issue of perpetratorhood within the family (or symbolic family). Defining the term autogenocide will serve as the basis for an analysis of two prominent films that render narratives of encounters with low-ranking perpetrators in the shadow of the ongoing controversy over the remit of the KR tribunal (ECCC) to try only high-ranking perpetrators. Sotho Kulikar’s fiction film The Last Reel (2014) and Neary Adeline Hay’s non-fiction film Angkar (2018) propose postgenocide ethics embodied on a spectrum of forgiveness from aporetic reconciliation to un-forgiving. It is through this latter inclination towards un-forgiving that secondgeneration women’s cinema subverts the first generation’s reconciled attitude towards the perpetrators, and, most importantly, the perpetrators’ denial and lack of accountability and atonement. Thus, the new wave of Cambodian women’s cinema advances the possibility of cinematic creation of ethical communities, moving Cambodia towards a culture of accountability.
Post-World War II Holocaust studies, followed by genocide, trauma, and postcolonial studies, set the triangulation of perpetrator, victim, and bystander at the heart of their discussion of both the ethical legacy of the Holocaust and the aftermath of other twentieth-century catastrophes. Aiming at the constitution of an appropriate instrument to deal with transitional justice issues, during the 1990s the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) interwove these subject positions, thereby attesting to a major transformation in post-genocide reconciliation processes, though not altering their basic foundation. Other theorizations, especially of the perpetrator, for example, expanded the scale of sociological characterization of the triangulation or confronted its call for interpellation and identification (most prominently in the fields of criminology and literature, respectively), but further reflected the same triadic foundation. The exploratory opposition between subject position and action provoked by Gudehus in his ‘Some Remarks on the Label, Field, and Heuristics of Perpetrator Research’ (in this issue) follows the twentieth century’s legacy as well. Undoubtedly, opposing epistemology (subject position) and ontology (the action-able), as his essay suggests, contributes to our renewed efforts to comprehend perpetratorhood, recently kindled by the initiation of the Journal of Perpetrator Research and its pioneering editorial. However, I suggest that while adhering to the twentieth-century legacies – from Hilberg’s triad to Primo Levi’s ‘Gray Zone’ – it is necessary to comprehend perpetratorhood in light of the shift from the victim era, defined as such by the seminal works of Felman and Laub and particularly Wieviorka, to the perpetrator era.
The aim of this article is to present the major ethical turn in Israeli documentary cinema during the past decade (2004-2016). This corpus, which shifts between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Occupation, manifests an ethical transformation in the representation of self-other relations. Unraveling the social-cultural mechanism by which the occupier automatically becomes the victim, even when s/he has committed an injustice, is the indisputable contribution of Israeli documentary cinema to triggering cinematic and public nonconsensual discourse, laying the groundwork for what I term ‘Blood Relations’ films. These films – such as Nissim Mosek’s Citizen Nawi (2007), Shlomi Eldar’s Precious Life (2010), Naomi Lev’s Ameer Got His Gun (2011), Erez Laufer’s One Day after the Peace (2012), Noa Ben Hagay’s Blood Relation (2010), Nurit Kedar and Yaron Shany’s Life Sentences (2013), Anat Zuria’s The Lesson (2013), and Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince (2014) – lead to an inter-ethnic reconciliation that subverts ethnic binarism and calls for fluidity in self-other subject positions. Intifada documentary cinema and especially the Blood Relations films constitute, thus, a new epistemology, one that stands in radical opposition to the continued failure of Israeli society (and fiction films) towards the Other and Otherness. To characterize the Blood Relations' agonistic reconciliation, I suggest connecting the discourse of ethics in the context of democracy and human rights (e.g., Alain Badiou, Chantal Mouffe) with the discourse of care ethics in the context of national, global, and militaristic processes (e.g., Joan Tronto, Fiona Robinson). Blood Relations films show to what extent the self and the Other, and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, are reliant on one another and bound to each other. In so doing, they strive for an ethical paradigm that promotes the similarity between the self and the Other and a sense of shared humanity.
This chapter proposes an analysis of Rithy Panh's documentaries, S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003), Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2012) and, to a lesser degree, The Missing Picture (2013), as so-called ‘perpetrator documentaries’ — that is, documentaries that focus on the figure of the perpetrator, while unravelling the long-time enigma of the ‘ordinary man turned perpetrator’. It suggests that the survivor–perpetrator encounter staged at the heart of S21 and Duch is a major characteristic of Panh's perpetrator documentary cinema, aiming at undermining the perpetrator's ideology of extermination and reconstituting the human condition. It also describes the cinematic strategies through which these three post-genocide documentaries constitute a cinematic ‘archive of truth’. Identifying the major tropes that most potently mobilise this archive examines the role of Panh's perpetrator documentaries as a transgenerational site, one that confronts the post-1979 generation with the double enigma: of the ‘ordinary perpetrator’ and self-genocide. In the midst of Cambodia's struggle over the post-Khmer Rouge national narrative, Panh, the survivor, has put forward a new episteme with which Cambodia's collective post-traumatic memory should be re-established.
Since early in this decade, Israeli cinema has witnessed the emergence of a new religious wave that presents mainly ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture. Its emergence is influenced by the global rise of religious politics in the post-9/11 era and the subsequent global war on terror, but most of all, by the major forces at work in the Israeli milieu – the heated divide between religious belief and the secular worldview, the threat of a large and growing Orthodox population, socio-political trends to the right, the increasing influence of the settler movement as a powerful social and political force, and the specific socio-political complexity of the second Intifada period. Narrative religious cinema made during the second Intifada does not deal with the extreme and highly influential figure of religious national-Zionism, the settler; instead, it represents the minority figure of the ultra-Orthodox Jew as its ultimate other. This displacement sets the ultra-Orthodox as a benign substitute through which multiculturalist and religious conflicts and left-right clashes might be negotiated. In fact, narrative cinema critically celebrates the ultra-Orthodox otherness as harmless entertainment for both secular and national-religious Zionist audiences. In this climate of intensified repression, a number of documentaries, all by women directors, though not dealing with the settler, present the intolerance and oppressive violence prevalent in ultra-Orthodox culture. By calling attention to the political dimension of fundamentalism, largely hidden in narrative films, these documentaries grasp the distinctiveness of Jewish fundamentalism in the socio-structural sphere rather than in the realm of ideas. Negotiating the different facets and body-lines of the ultra-Orthodox male (and female) stands at the core of films like Black Bus and Gevald. By mobilizing a discussion of pre-modern vs. modern forms of fundamentalism, these documentaries protest, on one hand, the modesty revolution set against women and, on the other, the extreme violence aimed at the (secular and religious) GLBT community. Analyzing this wave in a highly debated socio-political climate therefore reawakens classic questions regarding access to and visibility of marginal groups in documentary cinema, as well as current questions along the lines of multi-religiousness, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.
The essay examines a certain shift in the politics of the body/corpse as an outcome of the “new” war. Perspectives on suicide-attack-induced trauma are compared via an analysis of the 2003 Israeli documentary No. 17 (representing here an entire corpus); video recordings taken of suicide bombers before their missions; and the Palestinian narrative film Paradise Now (2005). Among the interrelated issues discussed are the ethics of the gaze; the phenomenology of suicide attacks; our willingness to become contaminated by the corpse as indicating our willingness to accept the other; and the distinction between discourses oriented towards the other and those which preclude such orientation. By proposing the body/corpse relationship as the basis for a new “materialistic” discourse, the essay contests the predominance of “memory discourse” in trauma studies.
Morag, Raya (2013) "Abjection, Ethics, and Otherness: Israeli Documentary Cinema in the Age of the Second Intifada," Mikan 13 October: 5-30. (Hebrew).
An analysis of films depicting the relationship between the Occupation and terror in Israeli and in Palestinian queer cinema produced during – and after – the second Intifada (2000-2008) reveals a complex picture. Both corpora deal with the post-traumatic queering of race and nationality. However, while the Israeli films (The Bubble by Eytan Fox and Gevald by Netalie Braun) focus on the Western urban gay and lesbian scene infiltrated by terror, the Palestinian film (Diary of a Male Whore by Tawfik Abu Wael) focuses on the post-traumatic memory of expulsion and loss of home. These constructs – together with socio-religious differences between the two cultures and their film industries – have ramifications on how queer sexualities are represented. A close textual analysis of these three examples offers a rethinking of cultural concepts (e.g., gay-ization, the permeable body, masturbation, gay shame-pride-humiliation, gaze and scopic economics, kinging), as well as of memory; trauma; and post-trauma, as a way to reflect on queering the terror.
An introduction is presented in which the editor discusses articles on topics related to Israeli documentary following the second intifada including the depiction of ethics in Israeli films, films dealing with sexual violence against women, and Jewish and Zionist history.
This essay proposes a new paradigm for cinema trauma studies: the trauma of the perpetrator. Recognizing a current shift in interest from trauma suffered by victims to that suffered by perpetrators, it seeks to break the repression of the abhorrent figure of the perpetrator in cinema and psychoanalysis literature. This new paradigm is driven by the emergence of a new wave of Israeli documentaries such as Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir, Tamar Yarom's To See If I'm Smiling, and Avi Mograbi's Z32, one that for the first time includes female IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) veterans. Israeli cinema, attached on one side to the legacy of the Holocaust and on the other to the Israeli occupation, proves a highly relevant case for probing the limits of both types of traumas. Taking as a point of departure the distinction between testimony given by the victim and confession made by the perpetrator, the paper addresses the questions of whether the trauma of the perpetrator indeed exists; how we might understand the somatic and epistemological conditions of guilt; how we should define the perpetrator's trauma in contrast to the victim's; and whether this cinematic trend indeed paves the way for Israelis to assume responsibility for their deeds. Analyzing the characteristics of perpetrator trauma defined as crises (of evidence, disclosure, gender, audience, narrativization) finally leads to a preliminary reflection on the possible relevance of this model for analyzing related new-war films in twenty-first-century world cinema.
All rights are reserved by the Camera Obscura Journal. Morag, Raya (2012) “Perpetrator Trauma and Current Israeli Documentary Cinema,” Camera Obscura 80 27.2: 93-133.
An analysis of films depicting interracial sex between men in Israeli and in Palestinian cinema, which were produced during and after the second Intifada (2000-2008), reveals a complex picture. Both corpora deal with the post-traumatic intersection of race and nationality with gender and sexuality. The paper examines two examples: Eytan Fox’s Israeli film, The Bubble, and Tawfik Abu Wael’s short Palestinian film, Diary of a Male Whore. While the Israeli film focuses on interracial sex infiltrated by terror within the urban Western gay scene, the Palestinian film focuses on interracial sex within the post-traumatic memory of expulsion and loss of home.
These constructs – together with socio-religious differences between the two cultures and their film industries – have ramifications on how (homo)sexualities are represented. Homosexual Palestinian and Israeli cinema during and after the second Intifada (as presented in Bubble and Diary) suggests a complex network of interracial sexual relations. This paper, therefore, offers a rethinking of cultural concepts (e.g., gay-ization, the permeable body, masturbation, gay shame-pride-humiliation, gaze and scopic economics), as well as of memory, trauma, and post-trauma
Morag, Raya. 2011. “Post-Trauma, Sexuality And the Occupation: Palestinian and Israeli Cinema during the second Intifada" (Hebrew).Theory and Criticism 38-39: 211 - 234.
An exploration of the concept of ‘post-queer’ through reinterpreting New German Cinema (NGC) as post-traumatic cinema processing the trauma of the defeat of the Third Reich, reveals the singular complexity of the conflict between the corpus and Nazi Germany's past. An intricate process associated with (post)queerness and masculinity takes place in the transfer between generations in NGC. At one end of the axis is the convoluted body, genderlessness and non-queer a-sexuality of Kaspar, the protagonist of Herzog's The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser; on the other is the ruptured body and anti-queer transsexuality of Elvira in Fassbinder's In a Year of Thirteen Moons. A re-reading of paradigmatic psychoanalytic studies pertaining to Hitler's image that analyzes it as a queer imago, and a close reading of these two paradigmatic filming embodiments, will shed new light on the entire corpus. In this paper, I contend that NGC acknowledges the trauma of the defeat and at the same time subverts fascist-Nazi aesthetics and ideology. Thus, un-queering the Hitlerian imago becomes the morally preferred subject position of the defeated perpetrator.