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Memory and Documentary Film

Exploring Painful and Forgotten Memories in China, India, and Indonesia

FOCUS ASIA 25-27 April 2013

Documentary film can play an important role in helping to retrieve repressed memories and to commemorate painful, violent, and forgotten events. The films we have selected for screening show how difficult it can be to express and deal with individual and collective memories of conflict, violence, and disaster. This is especially the case when these memories are deliberately ignored, suppressed, or distorted in official history writing and contemporary politics and popular culture.

The films dealt with very different events, the Great Famine in China 1959-1961, the violence against communists in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and communal violence in Mumbai, India, in 1992-1993, but what they had in common is the fact that none of the events have been fully acknowledged by the authorities and seldom are addressed in public debates. The films explored the intersection of individual and collective memories, how and what people remember of painful events, what, how and why they choose to forget, and why some are forced to forget and suppress their memories while others have the power to re-write history and suppress others’ memories. The filmmakers have chosen different ways and methods to evoke and document memories, ranging from more personal stories and self-revelations, direct observation and interviews, to re-enactment and cinematic interventions. The films tell us as much about the filmmakers’ own wishes and reasons for wanting to retrieve memory as it does about the local communities’ memory-making practices.

Two documentary film projects based in China respectively India were introduced and nine films from and about China, India, and Indonesia were screened with the directors present for Q&A.

Act of killing image
From the film "The Act of Killing" by Joshua Oppenheimer. Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.


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focus asia april 2013 poster image

Farooq image
From the film "Farooq versus The State" by K.P. Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

Satiated village photo
From the film "Satiated Village" (2011) by Zou Xueping. Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.

Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies
Lund University
Sölvegatan 18 B, 223 62 Lund

Phone: +46 46 222 38 61
E-mail: info [at] ace [dot] lu [dot] se