One of the main functions of legal academia is to examine the operation of legal institutions and existing norms. As many movies represent legal professionals and rules in action, in particular criminal trials, this is actually what most of the juridical law and cinema scholarships does. 1 What many legal scholars attempt when they study cinema and popular culture is to continue doing what they are the most adept at: analyse legal actors and legal rules, albeit focusing on representations rather than on the rules and actors themselves. The idea resting upon
delivered justice to the people who needed it most when otherwise they might not have had it at all. And I’m proud to have done that and I’m proud to keep doing that.
This scene stages two representations of international criminal justice which can be found more generally in cinema. On one hand, it appears as a necessary means to fight impunity ‘wherever the crime takes place’ and to ‘deliver justice to the people who need it most’. On the other, it is shown as an institution commanded by Western States’ interests and their neocolonialist reflexes. It is hard to tell
Visual Advocacy in the Early Decades of Humanitarian Cinema
pictures to produce an immersive spectacle, relying on the cinematic realism of non-fiction movies to increase the ‘perceptual experience’ and the ‘aesthetics of astonishment’ of the viewers ( Crawford-Holland, 2018 ). Back in the 1920s, ‘cinema … “virtually” extended human perceptions to events and locations beyond their physical and temporal bounds’ ( Uricchio, 1997 : 119). Humanitarian cinema thus participated in transnational campaigns aiming to mobilize and sensitize national audiences. More specifically, these movies also advocated on behalf of distant
of the visually displaced in Europe between June 1918 and April 1919, published in the
mass-circulated and popular Red Cross Magazine of the American Red
Cross. Valérie Gorin’s analysis dives into the early use of humanitarian
cinema in the 1920s, during the pivotal period of 1919–23 and the first
international humanitarian response in Europe, to show how cinema participated as a set
of communication practices convergent with transnational activism and advocacy.
as influenced by different cultures is crucial.
Reeves also hits on a common theme raised in other essays: the ways that public
portrayals of humanitarian organisations are often wrapped up with specific national
projects. This is as true of the Red Cross in China as it was of the Red Cross in
Switzerland in the wake of WWI, as Francesca Piana shows in her essay,
‘Photography, Cinema, and the Quest for Influence’. Piana highlights
the extent to which the
The Visual Politics and Narratives of Red Cross Museums in Europe and the
United States, 1920s to 2010s
action at a patient’s bed. Others included poster collections
or TV screens that showed documentary film footage. In Geislingen, the exhibit also
featured computers and a cinema tent, but that was an exception. Given the low
budget of most German Red Cross museums, presentations were usually organized around
historical objects, not by way of immersive multimedia environments.
The visual politics of German Red Cross museums open an important window on a third
Humanitarian films in the 1920s served to blame or impel audiences, without naming or shaming perpetrators most of the time. Instead of being proper political advocacy, early humanitarian cinema displayed more educational advocacy, which aims to impose a transformative agenda based on solidarity. Advocacy developed more systematically as a form of humanitarian communication in the 1970s and 1980s. It was influenced by the French and British schools of humanitarianism ( Dolan, 1992 ; Edwards, 1993 ; Gorin, 2018 ). While British NGOs such as
When the editors of this most interesting book invited me to comment on its chapters, I felt very much honoured and also challenged. I happen to have written essays about cinema, but in a spirit of analysis rather than synthesis. That is to say, I selected a restricted number of films, without focusing on international law per se. 1 Ever since its inception, cinema has inspired many written pieces, notably artistic or technical considerations. It has progressed, a long time ago, from the status of mere entertainment to that of art in its own right, a
, bear. 2 There will be international lawyers who might wonder, then, how on earth cinema might speak to their own field of practice. International law is the study of international legal texts (broadly understood to include the practice and psychological bearing of states) or it is what international lawyers do but can it really be what filmmakers or the producers of television do?
Well, as this volume makes clear, there have been, at the very least, an impressively considerable number of filmic representations of international law. Indeed, the book begins with a
Cinema’ on the website of the International Law Centre of the Free University of Brussels (Université libre de Bruxelles, ULB). 3 The section was created in January 2013 and contains numerous commentaries of films or TV series, alongside the scene from The Bridge on the River Kwai presented above. Given the interest, not to say the enthusiasm, for this initiative, the ULB International Law Centre took up this theme for the conference celebrating the Centre’s fiftieth anniversary in 2014, and published a book containing the contributions presented at the conference