UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A cinema of resistance, a resistance of cinema : on the limits and possibilities of Northern Ireland’s commemorative cinema Carlsten, Jennie Margethe


Within the divided society of Northern Ireland, the incomplete or deficient representation of communities is an obstacle to mourning and reconciliation. Through a cinema that engages with the processes of social memory and identity construction, however, there is an opportunity for the productive contemplation and grieving of past injuries and losses. A 'commemorative cinema' has emerged over the last decade, of and about Northern Ireland, addressing moments of historical trauma and the representations of traumatized communities. Through their implicit and explicit challenges to existing frameworks and images, the films of the commemorative cinema offer a site of resistance for committed and active viewers. The commemorative cinema offers the possibility of a resistant counter-cinema that challenges dominant representations and may lead to positive social change. At the same time, it reveals the limits of film as a medium for challenging preexisting notions of identity and belonging. Current, criticism posits preferred readings of the films made in and about Northern Ireland. Positioning the films as 'closed' texts with clear and stable ideological meaning, the critical consensus presumes that audiences will understand the works in equally stable ways, but fails to account for the strategies by which actual viewers create meaning form the gaps and fissures of the film. Resurrection Man, Some Mother's Son, and Bloody Sunday are three films which serve as excellent examples of the limits and possibilities of commemorative cinema. The ambiguous nature of the films allows them to perform as 'open? texts, capable of reworking and re-reading by viewers. Audiences may use the strategies of negotiation, selective identification, and textual poaching to exploit these ambiguities. In so doing, audiences find the opportunity to construct alternatives to the unsatisfactory or unproductive representations and positions essentialized by critics, opposing both the progressive and the reactionary intentions o f filmmakers, community leaders, and critics. A resistant cinema has two requirements; firsts texts that through ambiguity create opportunities for divergent readings and understandings; second, engaged and committed audiences that read the films selectively. Both of these can be found in the commemorative cinema and audience of Northern Ireland.

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