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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”

Extract

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 appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.

—President William Clinton, 1998 apology to Rwandans

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