Films of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
Foreword: Raymond G. Helmick, SJ
Raymond G. Helmick, SJ
The idea for this collection of essays arose while John Michalczyk and I offered a course on the topic of genocide and ethnic cleansing during the fall term of 2011 at Boston College. The course had a double focus: a study of the many instances of genocide and the usefulness of film to the topic. The course was consequently listed under two departments of the university: Theology for its ethical dimension and Fine Arts for its film aspects. The students had to attune themselves to these two dimensions. I brought to it my extensive experience as mediator in many violent conflicts while John was the filmmaking specialist. It was during the making of many documentary films about peace-making over the years, beginning in 1997 in Northern Ireland, that we realized we shared one another’s concerns.
Genocide is a term invented by Raphael Lemkin, first used in his Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, a book published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in November 1944. Lemkin, a Jewish student at the University of Lwow, had become fascinated by the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, a young Armenian who in 1921 had assassinated Mehmet Talaat, the former Interior Minister of Turkey and organizer of the killing, by firing squad, bayonet, bludgeon and starvation, of over a million Armenians in 1915. It seemed bizarre to Lemkin that the assassin should stand trial for murder in a court that had no quarrel with...
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