The risks and benefits of collaborative documentary filmmaking in post-conflict Northern Ireland. An analysis of participant and audience responses to telling and hearing stories from the Troubles.

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Abstract

This paper examines the risks and benefits of collaborative documentary filmmaking (the protocols of which were developed during production of the Prisons Memory Archive) in post-conflict Northern Ireland by analysing the production of, and audience and participant responses to, Unheard Voices (2009) a 30min documentary that tells the stories of six people who lost a loved one or were injured during the Troubles. Benefits include humanising the conflict by providing public access to first-person accounts. It allows participants to present contrasting narratives that challenge dominant representations. It provides validation and public acknowledgement. It is cathartic, allowing participants to externalise an internal trauma narrative by producing a tangible outcome. It is a private and public commemoration of a loved one or personal experience and provides a sense of achievement. Whilst promising, these benefits are not guaranteed. This research identifies specific risks: re-traumatisation, inadequate
representation and public invalidation of the trauma narrative. Audiences highlighted the need for both reparative remembering, but equally reparative forgetting. Although collaboration aims to reduce the imbalance of power between storyteller and producer, it does not guarantee equality. This limits the potential for such projects to provide ‘healing’ and any such claims should be used with caution.
LanguageEnglish
JournalMedia Practice and Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Sep 2019

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narrative
trauma
open channel
correctional institution
equality
guarantee
producer
human being
present
experience

Keywords

  • documentary
  • collaborative documentary
  • participatory research
  • storytelling
  • post-conflict
  • Northern Ireland
  • audience research

Cite this

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title = "The risks and benefits of collaborative documentary filmmaking in post-conflict Northern Ireland. An analysis of participant and audience responses to telling and hearing stories from the Troubles.",
abstract = "This paper examines the risks and benefits of collaborative documentary filmmaking (the protocols of which were developed during production of the Prisons Memory Archive) in post-conflict Northern Ireland by analysing the production of, and audience and participant responses to, Unheard Voices (2009) a 30min documentary that tells the stories of six people who lost a loved one or were injured during the Troubles. Benefits include humanising the conflict by providing public access to first-person accounts. It allows participants to present contrasting narratives that challenge dominant representations. It provides validation and public acknowledgement. It is cathartic, allowing participants to externalise an internal trauma narrative by producing a tangible outcome. It is a private and public commemoration of a loved one or personal experience and provides a sense of achievement. Whilst promising, these benefits are not guaranteed. This research identifies specific risks: re-traumatisation, inadequaterepresentation and public invalidation of the trauma narrative. Audiences highlighted the need for both reparative remembering, but equally reparative forgetting. Although collaboration aims to reduce the imbalance of power between storyteller and producer, it does not guarantee equality. This limits the potential for such projects to provide ‘healing’ and any such claims should be used with caution.",
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