Strangers Unseen: On Disrupting Figures in Essay Films

Wednesday 6 March 2024, 4:30 pm
PhD student
J.J.M.J. Boom MA
prof. dr. A.M. Smelik
dr. L. Munteán
Faculty of Arts

This dissertation explores images of refugees and migrants that are deliberately obscure, opaque, and illegible. It examines these images within a group of recent essay films that employ fractures and frustrations as expressive cinematic elements to engage with the different realities of displacement and statelessness. Operating somewhere at the intersection of documentary filmmaking and experimental cinema, the filmmakers of these video works, such as Amel Alzakout, Philip Scheffner, Sara Fattahi, and Jan Locus, search for similar contingent forms to mediate the uncertainties and tragedies of dislocation, mobilizing questions revolving around memory, testimony, and representation. What binds their works together, besides a thematic interest in migration in Europe, is a commitment to the essayistic format: they all offer the viewer a mode of contemplation that exposes the limits of observation and encourages non-hierarchical ways of seeing by tearing cracks in the visual field. It is in their invitation to "unsee" that the essay films in this study teach their viewers tolerance toward uncertainty and care for the other without complete understanding as the basis for solidarity.

Jeroen Boom is a researcher and teacher interested in the role of moving images as nodes of resistance in processes of social and political stigmatization, especially in the context of anti-migrant sentiments. During his doctoral research, together with Dr. Niels Niessen, he founded and coordinated the research group Critical Humanities at the Radboud Institute for Culture and History. He currently works as a lecturer at the Media and Culture Department at Utrecht University and teaches courses on film, screen media, and visual culture.