Memory, Representation and Action: The Camera as A Witness of Cultural Traumas


Author: CHEN Tao, Associate Professor, School of Liberal Arts, Renmin University of China.


This paper explores how the camera can function as a witness to cultural trauma in film by analyzing three works produced and screened in the late 1980s: Holocaust, A City of Sadness and Haitian Corner. Cameras that have not experienced massacres and disasters can never return to the historical scene, highlighting the paradox and crisis of witness; yet cameras can convey specific perspectives, view points and voices, surpassing the function of pure recording. In the cinematic representation of cultural trauma, the cameras in film is not only between the visible and invisible, audible and inaudible, but is also endowed with features of agency. This paper explores how different directors and artists use camera as an important element of the mise-en-scène to expand the experience of cultural trauma, as well as to enrich the meaning of witness, so as to overcome the crisis of witness.


witness, cultural trauma, camera, agency

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