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International humanitarian law in war movies
Martyna Fałkowska-Clarys and Vaios Koutroulis

This chapter analyses the cinematic representations of the principle of distinction, one of the cornerstones of the law of armed conflict. In general, the view presented in these films and TV series is that it is extremely difficult or even impossible to effectively apply the principle of distinction in the field. Law is depicted as being ill adapted to properly regulate armed conflicts, too burdensome and out of touch with the dictates of the realities on the ground. In most cases, legal norms are submitted to the viewers’ scrutiny, either implicitly, or explicitly. Cinematic productions convey a specific stance as to the relevance, usefulness and applicability of the law of armed conflict. Sometimes, the principle of distinction is applied very flexibly and the rule is interpreted very (sometimes too) extensively. In other cases, the rule is simply put aside in the name of (military) necessity. Other productions, rather than focusing on the applicability or interpretation of the rule, use the legal framework as a broader narrative to (de)legitimize an armed conflict or a specific State-led operation.

in Cinematic perspectives on international law

Cinema has been an object of study for the social sciences for some time now. The relationship between law and cinema has been the subject of a certain number of reflections by jurists who work essentially within a national legal framework, and from the true genre that courtroom movies have become. One can point also to studies linking cinema and international relations. In short, the relationship between international law and cinema has never been the subject of a specific book. The objective of the present book is to show what image of international law and its norms is conveyed in films and series. Beyond a strictly legal analysis, the ambition is to take into account, in a broader perspective marked by interdisciplinarity, the relations between international law, cinema and ideology. The volume is aimed at a readership made of scholars, researchers as well as practitioners, in the field of international law, and related fields, all of whom will benefit from being introduced to a variety of perspectives on core international legal questions present in movies and TV series. Further, the volume can also be used with advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students studying international law, politics and international relations because it will provide the possibility of introducing students to a variety of perspectives on key issues in international law present in movies and TV series.