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Through a Lens Darkly

Films of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

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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Advance Praise



Through a Lens Darkly

“With informative essays providing historical background and others focusing on specific documentaries and feature films, this series of enlightening analyses illuminates how cinema has conveyed an aural, emotional, and intellectual semblance of the atrocities, expulsions, and mass killings perpetrated in the Armenian, Cambodian, Native American, and Rwandan genocides, the Holocaust, the ethnic cleansings of Bosnia and Palestine, and the on-going turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur.”

Lawrence Baron, San Diego State University, Author of Projecting the Holocaust into the Present

“This book is not only a history of recent centuries’ genocide, as shown on film, but a critical reminder that genocide continues today throughout much of the world. Each discussion of nine major geographical areas of genocide presented in the book is followed by analyses of selected films dealing with the particular genocidal event. This coverage not only gives us information on films and genocide, but both challenges and reinforces our personal consciences and ethical commitments. Co-editor John J. Michalczyk hopes that this book will prompt other scholars and writers to help raise awareness of the continuing atrocities occurring daily and globally, and co-editor Raymond G. Helmick hopes that this book will help us ‘understand the nature of genocide, its origins … and what can be done to head off such horrors or how to deal with perpetrators.’ You don’t have to be either a film or genocide scholar to learn from and be affected...

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