Savoirs en Prisme | 9 : Dictatorships and the absence of images in non-fiction cinema
directed by Marianne Bloch-Robin, Alberto da Silva and Rodrigo Nabuco de Araujo
Film archives – and more generally photomechanical archives – have shaped our collective memory of the twentieth century. Our collective imagination is haunted by audiovisual representations such as shots of World War One, the burning presidential palace (La Moneda) in Santiago after the 1973 coup, or Dolores Ibárruri – La Pasionaria – delivering her speeches while raising a clenched fist during the Spanish civil war. Documentary and non-fiction filmmakers have used such shots as documentary evidence, the most emblematic images migrating from one film to another and adapting to the works into which they are incorporated [Vicente Sánchez Biosca, « Migración de imágenes de la guerra civil española » in M. Graciete Besse et Michel Ralle (eds.), Les grands récits: miroirs brisés? Les grands récits à l’épreuve des mondes ibériques et ibéro-américains, INDIGO et Côté femmes, pp. 232-250]. The same shots might be used in order to illustrate contrasted points of view thanks to the way in which they are edited and combined with other images or thanks to the voiceover or commentaries which influence and even determine the meaning of such images for the viewer [Michel Chion, La voix au cinéma, Paris, Cahiers du Cinéma, 1984]. Documentary filmmakers may also choose to evacuate such overused images and exploit instead contemporary shots or testimonies, the prominence and omnipresence of which might be questioned in the light of the dichotomy between history and memory [Annette Wieviorka, L’ère du témoin, Paris, Plon, 1998].A filmmaker may deliberately choose not to exploit archive images, but in many cases, no photomechanical trace exists and filmmakers must deal with such an absence, especially when they intend to address the violence of dictatorial regimes or the peaceful and happy times which preceded the trauma. Photomechanical images have always served a testimonial function even in their early years; yet various strategies must be resorted to when an event for which no such images exist is to be represented, the event being somewhat off-camera in such a case [Nancy Berthier, « Guernica ou l’image absente », Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, vol. 89-90, no. 1, 2008]. Most of the time, the torture, arrest, missing or extermination of opponents to dictatorships in the Ibero-American world was not filmed.
This issue of Savoirs en Prisme will explore the absence of original archive images in twenty-first-century documentaries focusing on Ibero-American dictatorships. It aims to question the way in which cinema has used various strategies over the past two decades in order to deal with this absence, the production of such documentaries shaping a memory of these dictatorships and most films resituating in the present a past fraught with hidden forms of violence and then repressed by the state and society. The use of various strategies enables filmmakers to address the unspeakable or to distance themselves from the topic of the documentary and to avoid the fascination that horror may elicit in viewers.
We expect contributions focusing on the three following topics:
Testimonies and their limits
When no images of an event exist or when they cannot be accessed, documentary filmmakers may use testimonies. How do filmmakers relate traumatic experiences? To what extent do narratives reshape historical memory thanks to a process of selection in which some aspects of an event are kept while others immediately or progressively fall into oblivion?
Traces, iconography, borrowings
When no film images are available, in what ways do filmmakers use original archives enabling them not to rely exclusively on testimonies? By following the traces left by witnesses, how do they investigate the fate of the victims of repression?
Hybridization and nonfiction
Many other ways of using images are linked with the development of documentary cinema and its hybridization over the past decades. What strategies of representation are used by filmmakers? How do filmmakers deal with or represent missing persons or individuals who refuse to testify? To what extent do these new cinematographic forms question the line between fiction and documentaries?
Abstracts should not exceed 15 lines and must specify which topic(s) will be addressed in the articles. They must also include a short biographical notice, the author’s affiliation and an email address. They are to be sent to the guest editors of the issue (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) before February 15, 2018.
Abstracts and articles may be written in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese.
– Submission deadline for the articles (which should not exceed 50 000 signs): June 1, 2018.
– All the articles will be peer-reviewed before September 15, 2018.
– The final versions of the articles must be sent before December 1, 2018.
– The issue of Savoirs en Prisme will be published in March 2019.
A style sheet is available on the website of the journal: https://savoirsenprisme.com/note-aux-auteurs/