Trauma, Memory and Confinement: (Re)presentations of Space in Dictatorial Cinema

The Activist-Journalist and the Power of the Documentary

The documentary serves an additional purpose than that of most entertainment films in that it must educate the viewer. However, often the film implicitly conveys a perspective on the issue that is being discussed. Montse Armengou is a Spanish director and journalist known for her documentaries detailing the lives of the people that suffered as during and as a result of the Francoist regime. In one of her visits to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), she screened her and Ricard Belis’ documentary Los internados del miedo, detailing the stories of men and women who were children during the Franco era, and their suffering at the hands of different schools and institutions that essentially functioned as prisons and spaces of torture. Armengou share with the class some of her thoughts: that it is the job of the journalist to present the story with a clear ideological leaning, to send a message, and in her work, to attempt to make reparations when the government does not. For Armengou, the documentary serves this purpose. Following this assertion, however, is the question: But how do you ethically represent these stories when there’s an ideological goal to the documentary? If we consider Susan Sontag’s book Regarding the Pain of Others, she reflects on the journalistic drive to show the truth and questions the effectiveness of showing trauma. Sontag posits: “How else to get attention for one’s product or one’s art? How else to make a dent when there is incessant exposure to images, and overexposure to a handful of images seen again and again? The image as shock and the image as cliche are two aspects of the same presence.” (23)

Contents of this path: