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.
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
1 On the Web: http://israellawresourcecenter.org/israellaws/fulltext/lawandadministrationord.htm, Law and Administration Ordinance (published 19 May 1948).
Also Kirshbaum (n.d.), Jiryis (1976:9–20).
3 Among these films is King Solomon’s Mines, which is based on a biblical motif. For
example, Agasi asked the cinema department on 29 August 1956 to lend him this
film as well as the film Children of the Prairie – Hebrew translation (Agassi,
29 August 1956). ‘Letter to the cinema department
them in conversation. There
are plenty of instances of locals and refugees getting together to socialise
or to watch their children play together. Local people shared food and
clothes with refugees. New friendships sometimes culminated in marriage between refugees and locals.52 Newspapers wrote that the refugees
made themselves ‘at home’ and were keen to attend the theatre and
cinema – although these reports were tinged with a degree of unease that
refugees had become ‘nearly the prevalent part of the public’. But refugees
were not passive spectators. They expressed
Refugee communities and the state in France, 1914–18
the Marne committee, addressed by local senator Léon Bourgeois, was
attended by over 2,000.25 The Pas-de-Calais committee organised a series
of conferences on reconstruction in 1917 that attracted almost 5,000
people.26 A stream of lower-key events complemented these large meetings, from children’s parties, to cinema screenings, guided museum visits,
lectures examining local history, art and architecture, and monthly social
evenings.27 Most committees also had offices with regular hours where
refugees could meet, talk, exchange information and read newspapers
, Kosovo and the Future of Combat (New
York: Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 85–86.
Ibid., p. 59.
Ibid., p. 86.
J. Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Sydney: Power Publications, 1995);
Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (London: Verso, 1990).
Z. Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (New York: Verso, 2002).
P. Virilio (2000) From Modernism to Hypermodernism (London: Sage, 2000),
M. Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a New Era (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 1999), pp. 1–2.
M. Kaldor, ‘The “New War” in Iraq’, Theoria, Vol. 53
cinema and a new civic hall. The whole project
collapsed because the community cinema said, ‘I don’t think we want to
be part of this anymore.’ They just walked away from £9 million. And you
just think, we should be so lucky that we’ve got so much money for a faci
lity like this, and so rich that we can just walk away from it. How in Sierra
Leone they just say yes, we’ll have this and we’ll have that. There’s none of,
‘well, is it the right colour?’16
In a sense, if Britain can somehow ‘float free’ of interests in Africa, the
continent also allows the politicians who
, nevertheless, it stayed in the back of our minds as a powerful force, an inner motivation, a dormant desire for change, an opportunity to awaken.’ 83
Beyond the ‘library’
An innovative feature of American public diplomacy consisted in meticulously planned ‘outside’ activities held in Yugoslav schools, education institutions, and even small rural villages. Among these activities, movies played a crucial propaganda role. In the 1950s and 1960s, cinemas were the most popular entertainment in Yugoslavia. Data from 1958 reveals that, for nineteen million Yugoslav inhabitants