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Through a Lens Darkly

Films of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

Edited By John J. Michalczyk and SJ Raymond G. Helmick

While the ashes of the Holocaust were still fresh, Polish Jewish attorney Raphael Lemkin put a name to the tragedy that had decimated his family – genocide. The twentieth century was brutally scarred by the massive scale of genocide and its manifest forms of ethnic cleansing, massacres, and atrocities. We ask how these horrors can be visually translated to the screen while both maintaining their authenticity and serving as commercial «entertainment». Through an analysis of a series of poignant films on the plight of the Native Americans, the controversial Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and its legacy, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the Hutu-sponsored massacres in Rwanda, the reader can grasp the driving mechanisms of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The oft-repeated, «Never again» rings hollow to our ears in the wake of these tragedies in a post-Holocaust era. The films discussed here, both features and documentaries, are set in an historical context that sheds light on the dark side of humanity and are then discussed with the hope of better understanding our frailty. In the end, however, we ask can the «unrepresentable» ever be represented?


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Part Seven: Rwanda: 100 Days Engulfed in “Unimaginable Terror”


PART SEVEN Rwanda: 100 Days Engulfed in “Unimaginable Terror” A genocide in Africa has not received the same attention that genocide in Europe or genocide in Turkey or genocide in other parts of the world. There is still this kind of basic discrimination against the African people and the African problems. —Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary-General during Rwanda crisis We in the US and the world community did not do as much as we could have done to try to limit what occurred. It may seem strange to you here, but all over the world people like me were sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not appreci- ate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimagin- able terror. —President William Clinton, 1998 apology to Rwandans Rwanda: Where the Genocidal Devil Ran So Wild John H. Stanfield, II The 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis, planned and carried out by an extremist Hutu sect in the national government, actually began with Belgian colonial rule over that Central and East African society after WWI. It is now common knowledge that during the time between WWI and WWII, the Belgian racialization of the Hutus and Tutsis and their design and implementa- tion of ID cards for a largely physically non-distinctive population with extensive historical intermixture and very much the same culture would set in concrete the foundations of what would become, after independence in the early 1960s, a long term Hutu extremist genocidal apartheid...

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