While the proliferation of digital technology has expanded the capacity to document human rights violations and publicize them via cell phone, cloud, and social networks, raw footage of state-sponsored violence is often the subject of competing interpretations that multiply through their viral circulation. Accordingly, much recent attention has been placed on the evidentiary uncertainty that attends digital documents coming out of Syria. This article offers an alternative framework through which to think about the efficacy of images that circulate outside of state institutions and corporate media outlets. Focusing on works by Rabih Mroué, Ossama Mohammed, and the filmmaking collective Abounaddara, this article examines how the videos produced during the Syrian uprisings and war give rise to a critical reflection on cinematic truth and the medium's long-standing correlation with violence and death. The affective force of images that operate at the threshold of visibility unsettles the terms of both human rights practice and documentary filmmaking.
Emergency Cinema and the Dignified Image: Cell Phone Activism and Filmmaking in Syria
Chad Elias is Assistant Professor of Art History and Tate Modern Research Fellow, 2015–18, at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on contemporary art practices and visual cultures of the Middle East. He is currently completing a book for Duke University Press that examines the memory politics of documentary video, archival photography, and performance art in post–civil war Lebanon.
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Chad Elias; Emergency Cinema and the Dignified Image: Cell Phone Activism and Filmmaking in Syria. Film Quarterly 1 September 2017; 71 (1): 18–31. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2017.71.1.18
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