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The Promise of Return: Understanding Historical Trauma through Personal Journey Documentaries


The Promise of Return: Understanding Historical Trauma through Personal Journey Documentaries

Tremblay-Sher, Myriam (2012) The Promise of Return: Understanding Historical Trauma through Personal Journey Documentaries. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This research explores the capabilities of documentary cinema to innovatively articulate traumatic history and memory and compel the viewer in the construction of meaningful remembrance. Since the mid-1980s, an increasingly prominent sub-genre of historical documentary films has emerged in which survivors of the Holocaust or their descendants travel to regions of Eastern Europe to uncover and make sense of their family’s traumatic past. These types of films are what Annette Insdorf has identified as “documentaries of return.” They actively engage with three major questions: first, the evolving discourses of memory and their effect on the visual interpretation of traumatic history; second, the documentary articulation of embodied and spatial memory; and third, the conceptualization of the historical image that seeks more than authentic reflexivity.
The challenge, then, is to investigate how documentaries of return, in the context of personal memory quests, enhance the mediation of traumatic history beyond the question of mimetic transparency. Five notable films explore this: Dark Lullabies (Irene Angelico, 1985), A Journey Back (Brian Mckenna, 1987), Birthplace (Pawel Lozinski, 1992), Shtetl (Marian Marzynski, 1996), and Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance after the Holocaust (Menachem Daum & Oren Rudavsky, 2004). Through their experiential exploration of memorial affect and memorial space, and through their formulation of the image beyond mere historical representation, these films further our understanding of the complexities and nuances of traumatic memory and history amidst the growing abundance of representations of trauma in contemporary media.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Tremblay-Sher, Myriam
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:film studies
Date:15 September 2012
Thesis Supervisor(s):Waugh, Thomas
Keywords:documentary, memory, history, trauma, Holocaust, historical representation
ID Code:974769
Deposited On:20 Nov 2013 19:36
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:39
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