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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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Atrocities and Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Willy Moka-Mubelo, SJ

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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 experienced true peace and stability. Lydia Polgreen describes it correctly:

Though blessed with an incomparable endowment of minerals and water and abundant fertile land, this vast nation in the heart of Africa has known little but domination 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 endless global thirst for Congo’s resources, the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured 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 to perpetuate the exploitation of this country has never been extinguished. In the report, “Conrad’s Nightmare: The World’s Biggest Dam and Development’s Heart of Darkness,” Anders Lustgarten explains how the leaders of the European Union are terrified by the idea of running out of energy and are willing to grant financial...

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