Uncovering the Holocaust

I'm currently finishing up a book review of Uncovering the Holocaust: the International Reception of Night and Fog (Wallflower Press, 2006). Edited by Ewout van der Knaap, the volume is pretty much what it says, a reception study in six national contexts (French, German, Israeli, Dutch, British and American) of Resnais's documentary on Nazi concentration camps. I don't want to repeat my review here, but it probably won't see the light of day til 2007, so let me just say the book is definitely worth at least a cursory read. I found the book undertheorized and the opening chapter not terribly useful, but the individual case studies have a wealth of fascinating detail that spurred my thinking about film reception. And for those only casually interested in documentary or reception studies might find them useful material in teaching. It's sometimes difficult to get across the idea, without students thinking that you're advocating nihilism, that the "truth" of media texts lies in no small part in the cultural context. The case study format of Uncovering the Holocaust works well to defamiliarize the commonplace notion that documentaries simply convey historical truth without, on the other extreme, pretending as if there isn't a more intimate relation between Night and Fog and the historical real than in some other modes of filmmaking.

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