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Film-maker's Memories Documented

19 November 2010

A new book capturing 20 years of documentary-making experiences will be launched by the author, senior lecturer at the University of Ulster, Dr Cahal McLaughlin, this evening in Londonderry.

Recording Memories From Political Violence: A Film-Maker’s Journey is based on work carried out with survivor groups in Northern Ireland and South Africa to describe and analyse the use of documentary film-making in recording experiences of political conflict.

“I have set out to investigate the purposes, processes and outcomes of collaboratively filming the stories of survivors from political violence based on direct experiences,” said Dr McLaughlin, who is based at the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus.

“The recordings – five from Northern Ireland and one from South Africa – range from documentaries which were commissioned by representative organisations to individual recordings which I initiated.

“I argue that principles of collaboration, which offer co-ownership to participants, allow participants to remain authors of their own stories as well as creating the opportunity for access to constituencies that would otherwise remain hidden from, or risk misrepresentation in, mainstream media.

“Such co-ownership lays the foundations for a bottom-up approach to representation in order to challenge conditions where the structures of political transition or settlement can lead to an official story or memory that erases, downplays, marginalizes or formalises and institutionalises the stories of some or all victims.

“A secondary issue that evolved as the recordings progressed involved the effect of location recording on the performance and structure of story-telling from a violent past. When participants have decided that it is appropriate to take the opportunity to visit a site of significance to their experiences, the recordings provide an audio-visual context that can carry rich meanings for both the story-teller and story-listener.”

Dr McLaughlin most recently directed Unheard Voices with WAVE Truama Centre,which was screened throughout Northern Ireland and We Will Never Give Up for the Human Rights Media Centre, Cape Town, on apartheid reparations in South Africa. He is also Director of the Prisons Memory Archive of audio visual recordings, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

His book, published by Intellect Books and University of Chicago Press, will be launched at Café Nervosa in the Nerve Centre, Derry, this evening at 6.30pm.