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.
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Morag, Raya (2012) “Perpetrator Trauma and Current Israeli Documentary Cinema,” Camera Obscura 80 27.2: 93-133.