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Other research product . 2011

The Future About The Past

Bitsch, Rasmus Nielsn;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2011
Country: Denmark

Summary The Future About the Past is an examination and discussion of non-traditional ways of engaging with a difficult past. In this case the past in question is South Africa’s and its difficult memories of racism. Specifically it is an analysis of the 2009 science-fiction film District 9, directed by the South African Neill Blomkamp. In the project the idea of depicting history on film is discussed, especially inspired by the thoughts of the historian Robert A. Rosenstone. He argues that film can be depictions of the past – and therefore history in its own right and should not be judged on the same scale as written history. From that starting point, I go on to discuss historiography in a South African context and include thoughts on depictions of South Africa on film and cinematographic examples as such. I attempt to analyse District 9 from a historical point of view, especially focusing on what role the film can play in engaging with a difficult past and what it may say about the white, Afrikaans speaking minority’s view of their past. I conclude that the film has its merits as a way of depicting history, but has an underlying problematic view of history that includes racist stereotypification. The analysis leads to a discussion of the possibility of using film when engaging with a painful past. In this case I use examples from the discussion of depictions of Holocaust and argue that alternative films, for example science fiction, have the possibility of engaging with a difficult past in a better way than mainstream cinema and possibly written history.


Apartheid, South Africa, film, history

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