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Centre on Conflict, Development & Peacebuilding

Films, Collective Memories and National History in Political Transitions, Conflict and Post-Conflict Contexts

Project Overview

This multi-year project will investigate the role of cinema – both fiction and documentary films – in the processes of (re)shaping collective memories and (re)writing national history in the aftermath of political transitions, armed conflicts, and state-led violence. The reconstruction of collective memory in relation to past violence is meant to contribute to healing moral wounds, restoring social links, as well as reconstructing national identity – the foundation of any future socio-political project.

Cinema provides a pertinent reflection of the dynamics of memory and identity (re-)construction, both through state propaganda and the ‘writing’ of ‘official histories’, but also as a powerful expression of counter-hegemonic discourses. Through the latter, filmmakers often illuminate that which is actively left to oblivion by official political discourses, expressing forms of the society’s global unconsciousness. With the ability to reach audiences irrespective of age, gender, religious and racial boundaries, education and wealth, cinema can be a powerful agent of socio-political change. 

Developing a comparative perspective among countries in three (sub-)continents – Latin America, Middle East and South-East Asia – the project will investigate the dynamics of ‘Violence, Memory and Cinema’ through four main entry points: the role of film directors, the impacts of censorship, film festivals and funding. Necessarily inter-disciplinary, it will relate Film Studies to the Social Sciences – benefitting from an exceptional network of partners from history, sociology, anthropology, political science and psychology studies. As such, it will provide a unique contribution to flourishing scholarly debates on the relationship between art and peacebuilding. Practitioner-relevant outputs are also envisaged.


Project Outcomes

A first project workshop event took place in Geneva in February 2015 in collaboration with the Haute Ecole d’Art et du Design (HEAD)and brought together junior and senior scholars and film professionals from different disciplines, places and backgrounds. They decided to set up a film database to promote the exchange of experiences between regions.

L’autre 11 septembre… Cinéma et mémoires de la dictature au Chili (PDF)
Dossier: Regards sur 2013, L'ENA hors les Murs (magazine des anciens élèves de l'ENA), Décembre 201, Numéro 432