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Title: The issue of emotion in stories of conflict : docmentary filmmaking in a post conflict Northern Ireland
Author: Keeney, Declan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 1094
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2016
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Utilising a practice-based methodology, this study is concerned with the construction processes of documentary films that seek to record traumatic stories from victims and survivors of conflict. The implications for participants and the integrity of the work are explored by employing various filmic strategies across three original documentary film productions, created for this study. In particular, this study is concerned with the manifestation of emotion in documentary. The motivation for this research comes from the author's substantive professional experience in the production of broadcast documentary and television news outputs in the period immediately after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. Meeting victims, survivors and former combatants, often years after significant traumatic events in their lives, it was striking how recounting their 'lived experience' on camera, was still a highly emotional experience for many. Bound up in the recording process of these stories, are significant ethical and editorial challenges for the filmmaker. The overarching aim of this study was to contribute to an informed understanding of how trauma functions in the making of documentary film work about conflict. This work is not immediately concerned with the processes of evidence based 'truth recovery'. The modes of truth explored here are memory based and distinct from the juridical procedures of a court of law. Rather the study concentrates on the praxis of the filmmaker in documentary, where the participants have experienced significant trauma in their lifetime. This research also examines the representation of trauma; how the filmmaker presents this emotion, and how creative decisions influence collective or societal memory formation. All of which has received little scholarly attention in a medium largely concerned with 'representing the real'. Emotion in this study should be read as a complex set of interconnecting 'feeling states' collectively described as trauma. The contention is that where trauma manifests, so too can be found a significant number of difficult ethical, moral and editorial challenges for the filmmaker. This study seeks therefore, to interrogate the processes of 'managing' emotion in the production of new film work where testimony is a core component. The practice based methodology employed, led to the creation of three self-authored documentary films featuring stories from victims and survivors of the Northern Ireland conflict known as the Troubles, and the Siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These films, We Carried Your Secrets (Keeney, 2010), We Are Not Afraid (Keeney, 2012) and Release (Keeney, 2013), can be viewed as a development of the author's own approach to documenting traumatic events of conflict. Each film provided the context for a case study that emerged chronologically over the period of the study, whereby each film in turn, explored core research questions such as the implications for participants when recalling traumatic memories of conflict on camera; how the production process and creative decisions of the filmmaker impact on the integrity of these stories and finally, the third film sought to understand the value or contribution these films make to the record of the conflict, in the context of work not motivated by 'truth recovery'. This study will argue that emotion is a modifier of memory and that documenting 'emotional' testimony has significant implications for the participant and the audience's reception of the story. This study also found that the use of artifice or fictive devices by the filmmaker alters how these films' function in relation to wider memory formation in a post-conflict society, but that these films do have an intrinsic value to the record of conflict. This study attempts to outline a number of interventions in the field of documentary production. It asks for greater support for victims and survivors during and after their contribution to the production process. It also suggests that a more profound understanding of the cognitive processing at work in these engagements can be beneficial for the participant, the integrity of the stories and to the creative process. The need to find a research paradigm that offered a means to articulate these findings, led to an engagement with cognitive film theory and recent scholarship around its application to documentary. This study suggests the use of cognitive theory as a synthesizing tool for conceptualizing an approach to making documentary films. The focus of cognitive studies remains on spectatorship. This study is not proposing a new theory but rather it attempts to reverse engineer the process. On a practical level this can enable the filmmaker to attach creative solutions to problems of representing or evoking emotion and on the theoretical level, this approach offers insight on how the film work might be received having made those decisions.
Supervisor: McLaughlin, Cahal ; Grant, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available