Thursday, 21 January 2010

From Gaza to Haiti: too much reality?

On Monday night I watched the film 'To Shoot an Elephant' at the Star and Shadow, an independent cinema in Newcastle. It was also shown in many other places as part of a co-ordinated premiere. The feature-length film is almost entirely comprised of frontline footage from the assualt on Gaza's civilian population a year ago. One of its distinctive, and strongest, features, is that it presents the kind of raw, brutal and harrowing scenes that would normally be unseen or - if filmed - kept hidden from audiences.

A number of scenes are tough to watch, especially those in the hospital, but I think they can be justified. They make the reality of widespread bombing of a civilian population something we can't shy away from. The notion of 'precision bombing' is exposed as utterly hollow. The emotional impact is visceral and impossible to forget afterwards.

Similarly, Jess Hurd's graphic and powerful images from Haiti are, in places, extremely hard to confront (see above for one example). But this is necessary if we are to recognise even a small part of what this disaster really means for the human beings affected. It is also when photography and film come into their own, as it is difficult for even the finest reporter to capture these situations through words alone.

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