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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 Nine: Congo: In a Jungle of Man’s Inhumanity


PART NINE Congo: In a Jungle of Man’s Inhumanity There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again. —Lord John Roxton in Sir Author Conan Doyle’s The Lost World Atrocities and Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo Willy Moka-Mubelo, SJ The Democratic Republic of Congo is often referred to as a rich country with very poor people. It is like someone who feels thirsty while he lives next to a fountain of clean water. The obvious question is: how can such a situation be rationally explained? The exploitation of the Congo, both by external forces and local leaders, is a key factor that explains why this rich African country has never experi- enced true peace and stability. Lydia Polgreen describes it correctly: Though blessed with an incomparable endowment of minerals and water and abun- dant fertile land, this vast nation in the heart of Africa has known little but domina- tion and war since its founding as a colony under King Leopold II of Belgium in the 19th century. The bloodshed and terror have always been driven in part by the end- less global thirst for Congo’s resources, the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfig- ured the history of human conscience.1 From Polgreen’s description, it clearly appears that the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of plunder and of systematic abuses of its natural and human resources. The desire...

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