The (In)visibilities of Torture. Political torture and visual evidence in U.S. and Chilean Fiction Cinema (2004 – 2014)
Supervisors: Professors Stella Bruzzi and John King
Other research interests include contemporary U.S. television, new media, Whiteness Studies, Transnational Cinema, and film theory and philosophy
My thesis explores how selected contemporary U.S. and Chilean cinema and television depict factual cases of political torture, in relation to previous representations and to the presence and absence of their visual documentation. Integrating affect, film and media theory with textual analysis, and casting a wider net on the definition of torture, I suggest that these media products can help broaden our comprehension of and perspective on the event torture, in its collective and emotional dimension, its long-term social effects as well as its links to a number of cultural concepts which continue to shape the present. Moving beyond restricted readings based on identification, I suggest that these films’ heterogeneous aesthetic responses speak to a similar set of epistemological queries, fundamentally related to the truth claims of images. The films explore the uneasy complicity in seeing or watching torture, which concerns both the spectacle of cinema, the nature of torture as well as the position of the audience or witness. Anxieties about the reliability of visual evidence, increased by current technological changes, are explored through their own medium, ideally situated to speak about the visibilities as well as invisibilities pertaining to the subject matter of torture. Such epistemological questions and anxieties culminate in the topic of torture, which demands an ethical stand and trust in historically documented truth. I argue that in a situation of contested, censored or plainly missing documentation, these films produce a “cine-poetic” archive, images that highlight both their constructedness and their roots in the historical real. These films and television shows further offer a public and emotional space to explore subject positions crucial to develop a sense of shared social pain, often missing in official history or dominant narratives. In this way, the films help understand something fundamental about how we relate to our current reality through our images.