Documentary film at the heart of trauma
Adkins, Heather Michelle
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This paper examines the inherent complexities involved in the creation and interpretation of documentary film and photography as it addresses historical trauma. Each auteur is situated in, and limited by, the ideological frameworks of their time. This makes documentation around sites of trauma problematic. The Johari Window is used as a template to show that cultural blind spots are inevitable. The works of Jean Rouch and Edward Curtis, who documented colonized Africans and colonized American Indians, respectively, are offered as proof that these blind spots show up in our work. Critiques of Rouch and Curtis reveal the auteurs' racism and colonial privilege, despite their seeming enlightened perspectives about the colonized Other. The repetitive return by Rouch and Curtis to victimized and dominated subjects serves as evidence of their own trauma around the human atrocities inflicted by their own social group. Enrichment from colonization does not preclude traumatization, especially when one is witness, but helpless, to end the suffering. With contradictory forces at work in our psychologies, documentary can be an opportunity for intervention and healing or it can reiterate and reinforce the hierarchies that enabled the violence in the first place.
Checkmate is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.