(last updated 28 August 2010)

Thursday 9 September

Dr Jack Shaheen
Hollywood’s Reel Arabs and Muslims: Problems and Prospects
Dr Shaheen will present his documentary Reel Bad Arabs How Hollywood Vilifies a People, which has been featured at film festivals from Norway to Australia.  The film takes a devastating tour of the American cinematic landscape, moving from the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters to reveal an astonishing pattern of slanderous Arab stereotyping.

The documentary, which focuses on pre-9/11 films, explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs – from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding ‘terrorists’ – examining the origin of these stereotypical images, their development at major points in US-Middle East history, and why perceptions matter so much today.

The persistence of these images has served to help naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs, Muslims and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives. One major purpose of the film is to inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined; repeated images of the Arab-as-Enemy challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.

Friday 10 September


Dr Guy Westwell (Queen Mary, University of London)
In country: mapping the Iraq war in recent Hollywood combat movies
In this paper I will consider the recent Iraq war cycle of combat movies as historical films that offer their audiences a formative view of the complex events that have unfolded in the Middle East in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I plan to look in particular at The Hurt Locker (2009), though I will locate this film within the wider Iraq war combat cycle, including Redacted (2007), Battle for Haditha (2007), and The Green Zone (2010). The Hurt Locker has garnered considerable commercial and critical success and I will argue it is indicative of the emergence (post-Bush, pre-withdrawal) of a redemptive point of view. In support of this argument I will examine how the film finds a heroic figure in the bomb disposal technician, a soldier who is not mired in the work of killing or torture but instead actively attempts to save lives and bring order to an explosive situation. The film is richly symbolic and I will examine a number of issues related to this. For example, I will demonstrate how the film’s detailed mise-en-scène and meticulous construction of filmic space, describes the day-to-day realities of the war in Iraq in a way that might be argued to be allegorical. Many critics have lauded the film’s desire to establish a new descriptive vocabulary with which to represent the conflict, but I wish to argue that the consequences of staging the action in this way are ultimately recuperative.

Dr Liane Tanguay (York University, Toronto)
Kicking Vietnam Syndrome?  The ‘Heart of Darkness’ Trope in Iraq War Films
The purpose of this paper is to interrogate the ‘end of history’ triumphalism following the fall of Communism and the ‘victory’ in the first Gulf War by subjecting it to analysis in relation to post-9/11 films including Rendition, Redacted, The Hurt Locker, In the Valley of Elah, and other mass-cultural productions that, from mid-decade onwards, cast the ‘War on Terror’ in a decidedly more ambiguous light than that promulgated by the early Bush administration.  The overarching theory is similar to one which illuminates Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, namely that, as a literary icon of its time (the cusp of modernism), it stands as a detective story without a resolution and with an unfathomable emptiness at its core – a disorientation similar to that which confronts the audience of both Vietnam-era films and more recent anti-Iraq war films.  Although the latter have not fared well at the box office, generally speaking, their status as consumer commodities makes them quite as culturally significant as any other mass-distributed film on the market – including Avatar, which, although it presents itself as a veiled reference to American imperialism, attained its record-breaking revenues less because of its politics than because of its novelty status and, more importantly, its appeal to organicist yearnings. Through this paper I intend to demonstrate how the above-mentioned films invoke the spectre of Vietnam and the trope of imperialist power gone beyond even its own dubious rationale as so well illustrated by Conrad in 1899.

panel a

Prof. Martin Barker (Aberystwyth University)
Refiguring the ‘American Soldier’ in recent Iraq-war films
Between 2005-8 at least 24 feature films emerged from the margins of Hollywood addressing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Declared ‘failures’ by most American public commentators (delightedly by Conservatives, regretfully by Liberals), they were even dubbed a “toxic genre” by Variety.  A very few (Redacted because of the charge of ‘treason’ thrown at it, The Hurt Locker because of its Oscar success) achieved a level of visibility, even if not financial success.  Most have in fact circulated in other back-channels (specialist DVD circuits, for instance).  But in the speedy position-taking on them that has dominated early responses (e.g. Douglas Kellner, Susan Carruthers, and Garrett Stewart), two issues at the heart of their political significance have been largely overlooked – both homing in on the place of the ‘American soldier’ in US culture.  First, is the central importance attached to appeals to ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, providing a meeting point between left and right.  Second, is the emergence in a number of films of a new figure of the ‘soldier’: the Latino victim-hero.  This presentation, which draws on work from a book to be published in 2011, will particularly address three films: In the Valley of Elah, GI Jesús, and Conspiracy.

Thomas Ærvold Bjerre (University of Southern Denmark)
Generation Kill: American Soldiers as Adrenaline Junkies in Post-9/11 Combat Films and TV Series
This paper will trace some of the important changes in the American war film (and TV-series) after 9/11.  Drawing on Brian De Palma’s Redacted (2007), Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha (2007), Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah (2007), HBO’s mini-series Generation Kill (2008), and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2009), I will discuss how these films break from tradition by dismissing both the mythic heroism that pervades the typical WW2 film and the disillusionment of many Vietnam War films.  The most striking common feature of the new war films is their portrayal of the soldiers as war junkies; young men who are naive, hungry for adventure, and literally addicted to the rush of adrenaline that comes with combat. These are soldiers whose main motivation to go to war is to ‘get some’, that is, to kill.

The trigger-happy soldier is not a new element in war films, but where he was previously condemned, these new films rarely judge the soldiers.  However, hidden behind the films’ documentary-like ‘realism’ is a bleak criticism of a generation of Americans raised in a historical vacuum and for whom war is just another extreme sport.  So what has become of the noble intentions, the ideas of freedom and democracy, once linked with the US military?

Ashwani Sharma (University of East London)
Generation Kill: Masculinity, war and media after 9/11
9/11 as event marked the crisis of the ‘new world order’, with the ideological hegemony of the West in a globalized, ‘multicultural’ world impossible to maintain. This geo-political crisis is evidenced in the prevalence of tropes of anxiety, fear, trauma, violence and paranoia in much of the post 9/11 western media, where thrillers, war and crime are the dominant generic forms of popular entertainment. Central to these representations is the gendered aspect of the ‘war on terror’, with masculinity, and its discontents, symptomatically signifying the ideological antagonisms of this global empire.

With white soldiers to Muslim suicide bombers as omnipresent male protagonists, contemporary war films and television series have been key sites in articulating the contradictions and everyday traumas of race, class and masculinity. This paper focuses on the Iraq war, especially media texts such as Generation Kill and The Hurt Locker, to dialectically analyse the way effects of neoliberal capitalism and ‘post-politics’ in the West are signified in the representations of racial and class subjectivities in the banalities of the everyday of the violent conflict in Iraq. The paper in particular examines how the postmodern cynicism of violent, bored and nihilistic white masculinity is the ‘ideological fantasy’ structuring transnational, racial and class relations.

panel B

Barbara Wopperer (Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film, Munich)
‘I Believe Whatever Doesn't Kill You Simply Makes You ... Stranger’ Discourses of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in The Dark Knight
After the horrifying experience of 9/11, the social and emotional disruption it caused expressed itself not only in political action but also in social and cultural agitation. The whole entertainment business was affected by the event. After an initial period where films with escapist themes were rushed forward to provide an escape for the traumatised community, Hollywood turned to arms and ‘highly militaristic displays of patriotism, never entirely out of vogue, suddenly had new-found cachet’ (Markowitz 2004: 201). When Christopher Nolan’s comic adaption The Dark Knight hit cinemas in 2008, critics were quick to assess the film as promoting use of torture and heightening of security when confronted with terror. I propose a different reading – not as a comment on recent events but as an illustration of scientific terrorism-discourse. It showcases dilemmas of counter-terrorism and exposes dynamics of terror. In this reading the film helps us to dissect those dynamics of terrorism, and can enrich the debate about the adequacy of certain counter-measures, suggesting that conventional counter-terrorist war action is not cut out to contain this special form of threat. Thus read, the film conducts a sophisticated discourse about politics and morals in the face of terror.

Dr Fran Pheasant-Kelly (University of Wolverhampton)
Mediating Traumatic Memory: Abjection, Terror, Chaos in The Dark Knight
The events of September 11, 2001 caused a paradigm shift in Western society in the way that terrorism assumed a powerful and more menacing form, introducing a new vocabulary of terror that has become part of the psyche of the current generation. Terms such as ‘the War on Terror’, ‘9/11’, and ‘7/7’ are synonymous with this period in US and British history and immediately conjure images of the Twin Towers’ destruction, images branded indelibly on the consciousness of American citizens. The events of 9/11 caused widespread feelings of anger, disbelief, and revulsion towards Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Western society, partly because of the scale and audacity of the atrocities inflicted on the US, but predominantly in the extensive loss of life. These emotions stimulated conflict between various different groups, and over the years elapsed since, have led to a number of 9/11 narratives that, in various ways, retell, document or reflect on the events of 9/11.

The Dark Knight, although falling into the superhero fantasy genre, and distinct from other 9/11 narratives such as United 93 and World Trade Center, establishes aspects of the ‘War on Terror’ at its core, especially in its representation of the Joker. Its nightmarish vision of the Joker and the constant and unquantifiable threat of his re-emergence mediate his capacity as an agent of chaos. Some scholars already connect the notion of the War on Terror and the terrorist with Kristeva’s study of the abject. This paper argues that The Dark Knight clearly presents the Joker as abject, both in his visual rendition, and in the unpredictability of his appearance, together with elements of disgust that pervade his portrayal as other. In addition, both cinematography and mise-en-scène continually operate to signify aspects of 9/11. This paper therefore explores elements of abjection, trauma, and chaos that exist within the film, and considers how it mediates traumatic memory. It engages theoretically with Julia Kristeva’s (1982) analysis of abjection and Cathy Caruth’s (1995, 1996) studies of trauma to explain the film’s visual and narrative reflection of terrorism.

Arin Keeble (Newcastle University)
‘First World’ National Allegory and Otherness in 25th Hour and The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The growing canon of 9/11 literary texts is characterised by a tendency to avoid any explicit political dimension in favour of commemoration, memorialisation, or attempts at engagement with trauma.  Particularly absent in most of the canon is any meaningful engagement with post- 9/11 identity politics or overt attempts at historicizing or contextualizing the attacks, even in the long form media of novel and film.

This paper will argue that two texts, Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour (2002) and Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2008) contain national allegories of 9/11 that, filtered through a carefully established dual perspective, address post-9/11 racial tension and make powerful statements identifying 9/11 as a historical moment which is continuous rather than discontinuous.  While these texts are not unique in their allegorical aspect, they are in the dimension that this dual perspective, that of the American and the other, affords them.  Through very different stories, these texts both make the contentious suggestion that America needs to look internally to engage with the questions of how and why, whilst also upholding a vision of genuine traumatic rupture, thus gesturing toward a reconciliation of the ongoing dialectic of ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ in the cultural response to 9/11.

panel C

Gareth James (University of Exeter)
‘The Fight Has Just Begun’: HBO Documentaries after 9/11
Forming part of a broad reaction to post 9/11 tensions across entertainment media, US premium cable network HBO has commissioned multiple original productions that have indirectly and directly dealt with the changing mood of the War on Terror and domestic policy.  From inner-city decline in The Wire to Iraq experiences in miniseries Generation Kill and late-night political chat shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO’s marketing as an upscale brand for uncensored programming has framed these issues across a range of formats.  In this paper I will, however, particularly focus on HBO’s award-winning documentary division, exploring how a consistent range of projects have both acted as part of what Douglas Kellner describes as a ‘golden age’ of political documentaries since 9/11, while also attempting to balance radical and moderate approaches within long-term brand identity. Analyzing how this has been attempted through changing approaches to Iraq (Iraq in Fragments, Baghdad ER, Alive Day Memories) and torture scandals (Taxi to the Dark Side), I will conclude by considering their historical contextualization within broader verite documentary trends for flexible contemporary criticism and personal narration.

Dr Joe Parker (Pitzer College, Los Angeles) and Rebekah Sinclair, (Claremont Graduate University, Los Angeles)
An Ethico-Politics of Subaltern Representations in Post-9/11 Documentary Film
Drawing on the intersection of new ethical and political modes of theory by poststructuralist feminists (Spivak, Mouffe, Ziarek, Butler), this paper develops an analysis of the ethico-politics of documentary film representations of the Global War on Terror.  By focusing on representations of subaltern populations (illiterate rural women and men operating largely outside capitalism) in such films (Rendition; The Power of Nightmares), the paper interrogates the constitution of the modern nation-state through documentary films appearing to critique the global war without end.

The paper develops the productive impossibility of a poststructuralist calculus of the political that is capable of both rendering subaltern populations legible and interrogating the ‘Others’ constituted through differences between those appearing in the camera’s gaze and those holding the camera. This calculus both questions the political limits and ethics of post-9/11 mass media documentaries (e.g., impossible public recordings of national secrets) and suggests ways that nation-states and their terrors are contested and destabilised through the quotidian presence of gendered subaltern populations on the ground. We conclude the paper with concrete suggestions for building ethical relationships with the ‘Others’ of the Global War on Terror through modes of political interventions in mass media representation work and transnational politics.

panel D

Dr Matthew Alford
Critical Reactions to the Hollywood Propaganda Model: An Assessment
This paper analyses the merits of objections, as raised by various interested scholars, to the adaptation and application of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model to Hollywood. The objections are that: it is harder to measure, narrative conventions in entertainment are more salient considerations in the de-radicalisation of products, Hollywood is only responding to audience demands for standard political orientations, that the model underplays the diversity in screen entertainment, and that it is less appropriate to critique entertainment products in political terms. I argue that none of these criticisms damage the credibility of the Hollywood Propaganda Model, which, like its template, contends a more modest position than is often assumed.

Sebastian Horn (Freie Universität Berlin)
Dialectics of Hollywood
Have the film and television industries been supportive or critical of the “war on terror”? Frankly, this question strikes me as almost meaningless – at least at the level of actual political discourse. As an industry, the mass media is more interested in generating profit than in propagating a specific political message. It will gleefully cater to all sides in any given political situation – to all acceptable sides that is.

And here it becomes interesting. Because, while I think that analyzing films according to their political stance and dividing them into liberal/conservative or critical/affirmative dichotomies is rather pointless, I would indeed say that questioning the hegemonial positions embedded within them is fruitful: what can be shown and how, what has to be excluded and why, what is portrayed as natural and universal. While the film industry may not be supportive of one specific political stance it most certainly reiterates and, in doing so affirms, underlying social assumptions – those that form the unquestioned truths a society repeatedly tells itself about itself and the world.

In addition, I would argue dialectically that even the most blatant propaganda spectacles always already include their other within them, hinting at that which can't be shown. This, it seems to me, is on the one hand due to certain contradictions inherent in (post-)modern capitalist societies but, on the other hand, is also a formal ‘problem of narrative genre cinema. To demonstrate this thesis I will draw on two examples often placed at the opposing poles of the American political spectrum, Syriana and The Kingdom.

Mark Straw (University of Birmingham)
The Mediated Pleasures of Victimhood and Imperialism in Hollywood’s War on Terror
The main of the question of this paper will be the deployment of mediating US male bodies in contemporary war films. In many of these films, rather than spectators being directly confronted with catastrophic or traumatic images and narratives, cultural and emotional pain is channelled through these mediating bodies to the effect of elevating the value of US/Western pain and victimhood, and disavowing the neo-imperial violence of US foreign policy. Some of the films which convey this process include Behind Enemy Lines (John Moore, 2001), Redacted (Brian De Palma, 2007), and The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme, 2004).

I will deal with this question by referring to theories of the ‘cinematic body’ (after Steven Shaviro) and the use of spectacle as a means to display and erase the ‘enabling myths’ of US neo-imperialism (after Michael Rogin).

I intend to argue that these contemporary war films never substantially offer narrative investment in the subjectivity of occupied and dominated peoples, and instead offer up a highly stylised aesthetic and aural presentation of otherness. The mediating presence of US soldiers serves to obviate any claims to narrative power by those who are occupied and dominated, and also turns attention to the victimhood of the white US male, in turn belittling colonised people’s claims to oppression and persecution. The white US male shields the spectator from ethical culpability in the processes of demonising the ‘other’ and violent domination that encapsulate the US’s neo-imperial projects.

The value of this will be to demonstrate that contemporary war films are essentially narrative strategies to recruit spectators to a US male-centric perspective of the ‘war on terror’ and permit these spectators to revel in the transgressive pleasures of witnessing traumatic and abject scenes. These pleasures seduce the spectator into an affective, loco-subjective relationship with contemporary war films based in sensation and excitation that diverts from our consenting to the US neo-imperial violence.

panel E

Dr. Michael C. Frank (Universität Konstanz)
Alien Terrorists: Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Public Discourse on 9/11
When witnesses on the scene of the 11 September 2001, attacks in Manhattan told reporters that the event had seemed ‘like a movie’, Roland Emmerich's Independence Day was among the most frequently mentioned films. The perceived analogy between the incidents of 9/11 and the alien invasion genre not only concerned the affected targets – American landmark buildings – but also the perpetrators, ‘agents so unfamiliar as to seem almost like aliens’ (David Simpson). In their public declarations, President Bush and his administration strongly reinforced this impression by emphasizing the radical alterity of the attackers. The cinematic metaphor soon extended to the domain of real politics: as Richard Jackson has persuasively argued, traces of science fiction may be detected in the very concept of the ‘alien terrorist’ itself. Against this background, it is striking that one of the first high-budget Hollywood productions that was explicitly marketed as a post-9/11 film chose the alien invasion genre to reflect the anxieties of present-day America: as Steven Spielberg and his screenwriters repeatedly underlined, their War of the Worlds (2005) was a deliberate evocation of the New York City attacks.

In a close reading of Spielberg's film, my paper will cast a critical light on the precarious proximity of pop cultural forms to the public discourse on terrorism. I shall put forward the thesis that War of the Worlds uses the figure of the sub-human invader as an allegorical substitute for real-life threats and foes, thereby shifting the focus away from both the actual perpetrators and the prehistory of the attacks.

Pennylane Shen (Jacana Contemporary Gallery, Vancouver)
The End is Once Again Nigh
Since their cinematic beginnings, the sci-fi and horror genres have served as the expressive outlet for, guide to, or critique of, social fears and political concerns. Prevalent during the 1950-60s, the apocalyptic genre parallels times of collective paranoia in the American psyche, particularly during times of warfare and technological failure. However, not until recently has there been a succession of apocalyptic films remaking those of the 50s. What current social condition has provided for the success of their re-creations?

This paper examines three major mid-twentieth century apocalyptic films and their recent adaptations: The Last Man on Earth (1964, Salkow) and I Am Legend (2007, Lawrence); Godzilla (1954, Honda) and Cloverfield (2008, Reeves); War of the Worlds (1953, Haskin) and War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005).

Aspects of the remakes that have deviated most from the originals are found in the Hero, Villain and Setting. For example, influenced by the events of 9/11, all the films have been remade using New York as the primary location. Yet New York has also become a synecdoche, representing the United States as a whole in these films. By contrasting these three parts, I argue that social anxiety is dependent on spatial-temporal conditions and change accordingly, while fear is a universal continued subject of inquiry. In other words, what triggers the fear is different but the need to express it remains the same.

Chris Nunn (London South Bank University)
‘Throw it out the Airlock!’ The Hated ‘Other’ In Post-9/11 American Science Fiction Television
It is widely considered that American film and television underwent dramatic changes following the attacks on 11 September 2001. Science fiction television is the best example of a genre that depends on the representation of ‘the other’ for its narratives and in the hopes of understanding how the representation of ‘otherness’ has changed in post-9/11 American television, this paper examines the codes and conventions of science fiction television both pre and post-9/11. As critically recognised pillars of the genre the paper focuses mainly on Star Trek (Gene Roddenberry, NBC, 1966) and Battlestar Galactica (Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, NBC, 2003).

In line with many other post-9/11 television shows, the technical codes of science fiction television have become grittier, more visceral and realistic.  And while the ideologies of the genre remain very similar, representation of ‘the other’ has changed. Ronald D. Moore says ‘Science fiction is about asking difficult questions about humanity and the present, as much as speculating about possible futures’ and pre- or post-9/11, science fiction television still does this.

panel F

Bernd Zywietz (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz)
‘Evil Arabs’? Muslim terrorists in popular U.S. and Indian films and the strategies and problems of ‘Angemessenheit
‘To be suitable, proper, adequate or fair’: The German term Angemessenheit (appropriateness) means on a more literal level ‘measured on’. So more than both the German ‘adäquat’ and its English equivalent ‘adequate’ it qualifies something to be according to a certain measure or gauge.

But what is the measure, what are the criteria of Angemessenheit when it comes to the depiction of Muslims and Islamic terrorists in the imaginational spectrum of wrongly suspected ordinary citizens and (potential) fanatical, suicidal assassins?  Questions of stereotyping and defamation, of sexism and racisms are subjects well known in the history of film or in the context of terrorism in general.  But how to cope with it – and do we have to deal with it anyway?

This paper will compare popular terrorist movies from Hollywood with those from India.  Since (and because of) its founding as a modern nation state, India has faced different kinds of terrorism and communal violence, which has often been utilised politically, fuelling suspicion and hate of Muslims.  Given gruesome riots and jihad activities in Kashmir but also claims of organisations and the national censorship, so-called ‘Bollywood’ has developed a range of strategies of balancing the Muslim image in movies which – as I will show – Hollywood started to apply after 9/11, too.

Considering the advantages and limits of such narrative strategies I will discuss problems of assessing the appropriateness of Muslims’ cinematic representation in the context of the new transnational terrorism and how critics often disregard basic conditions like the constitution of the movie industry, genre rules and functions or the recipient’s side.

Yuliya Ladygina (University of California, San Diego)
Nikita Mikhalkov’s 12: What can be done when mercy has a greater force than law?
In 2007 the leading Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, canonized as a nostalgic nationalist for his uncritical celebration of Russian folk, surprised his audience with a radically new film 12, an adaptation of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men.  The film vigorously critiques the decaying nature of the contemporary Russia, addressing issues of socio-political corruption, ethnic intolerance, and the Chechen War, conveniently declared an antiterrorist campaign’ after 9/11.  This paper analyses the film’s twelve flashbacks of an eighteen-year-old Chechen boy, who is tried for murdering his step-father, a Russian army officer.  These sequences present an individual recollection, where Mikhalkov depicts war crimes committed against civilians, using complex cinematic imagery.  Mikhalkov’s sympathetic presentation of Chechen resistance fighters and victimized civilians complicates the media-propagated image of a clear-cut conflict of backward fanatical Islamic extremists assaulting a civilized Russia.  The filmmaker refrains, however, from any diegetic commentary, encouraging his audience to draw their own conclusions.  Mikhalkov’s film 12 is thus the first cinematic counter-narrative that speaks up against what the director, along with the rest of the Russian democratic intelligentsia, considers the horror and the shame of his country, a conflict that has been continually presented as a war on terrorism by the mainstream media.

Veronika Kusumaryati and Nayla Majestya (Jakarta Arts Institute)
The Terrorist’s Drama: In Defense of Suicide Bombers in Indonesian Cinema
In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-populated nation, what has been on the screen since 9/11?  Apparently few films about terrorism were made, comprising not more than three documentaries and three feature films dealing with the issues of suicide bombing. In contrast to Indonesian television’s representation (with its intensive thriller about capturing Bali and some other suicide bombers), these films attempt to display the ideological complexity of terrorism by choosing social drama as their mode of representation.

Instead of emphasising action/military operation/war/violence, these films assess and humanize the act of terrorism in Indonesian Islamic society. As most films are made as a reaction to 9/11 and war on terror, the filmmakers show resistant gesture to the dominant representation of Islam by ‘the West’. This paper aims to explore how the concept and rhetoric of terrorism operates in Indonesian cinema and how ‘terrorism film’/ film about terrorism/terrorist position themselves within the rise of Islamic films in Indonesia.

panel G

Mike Dillon (University of Southern California)
Bauer Power: 24 and the Making of an American
This paper surveys the existing academic literature on the terrorism-themed series 24. To this survey, I make several analytical contributions. First, I take a contrary view to critical works pertaining to 24’s controversial representations of torture, easily one of the most debated aspects of this terrorism-themed series. I argue that, by focusing their attention on protagonist Jack Bauer’s remarkable ability to effectively obtain information through torture, these works have, with almost unanimous consistency, overlooked a pivotal element of the show’s engagement with the topic of torture. My argument turns this analysis around to instead consider the absolute ineffectiveness of torture when enacted on Bauer himself at multiple points in the series. Bauer’s body is a frequent site of abuse, which allows the series to symbolically represent power as something articulated through the body’s ultimate indestructibility; this distinction becomes crucial in asserting an American moral superiority in the War on Terror over enemy bodies that always prove less resilient to physical pain. The title ‘Bauer Power’ is thus a play on the concept of Foucault’s biopower and how the body of Bauer stands for an American wartime biopolitics in which those with power are not merely those who directly wield violence but are those who prove most able to resist and withstand it.

Second, my paper departs from the invariably America-centered discourses on 24’s terror-narratives to consider how the series has been marketed and received in various overseas contexts, thus examining how consistently the above imagining of American heroism coheres to non-American public perception, both in the era of Bush and of Obama.  I argue that 24, one of the decade’s most widely-discussed pieces of entertainment media, warrants revisiting, especially given new developments in its narrative and the shifting political climate since the height of its academic attention. By assessing what notions of ‘America’ Bauer represents to foreign viewers, I will consider whether the show’s (purportedly right-wing) allegorical renderings of Bush-era counterterrorism remain fixed or offer new meanings in light of the Obama administration’s comparable popularity abroad.

Rolf Halse (University of Bergen)
The Muslim-American Neighbour as Terrorist: The representation of a Muslim family in the TV-serial 24
Academic literature on movies and TV-serials produced in Hollywood documents that Muslim and Arab characters are often represented in a stereotypical and negative manner. The TV-serial 24 may not be an exception. 24 has been accused by Muslim interest groups in the US and by prominent people with a Muslim background for stereotyping Muslims. This article sets out to investigate whether this accusation is well founded by analysing how a Muslim family, living in Los Angeles as a sleeping terror cell, is represented in the serial. A textual analysis reveals that each character in the family falls into different categories of stereotyped images of Muslims in Western popular culture. A change in the Muslim stereotype in US TV-entertainment post-9/11 having to do with the stereotype’s relocalisation is revealed. In appearance, the Muslim stereotype today resembles the appearance of the average American, which, in effect, redefines ‘the Muslim other’.

Dr Sudeep Dasgupta (University of Amsterdam)
Queering Terror, Staging Dissensus & Diverting Narratives: Teen television grows up post-9/11
The spectacular collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001 became the visual icon of the collapse of an emerging consensus that history was coming to an end after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Terror emerged as a visually and experientially overwhelming experience that paralleled the omnipresence of spectacular media forms in film and television. Many arguments have been made of a sense of déjà-vu experienced on 9-11-2001, as if live television was replaying already seen fictional representations in film. This paper will focus on a television series seemingly far-removed from the weighty problems of terror, geopolitics and xenophobia. Skins, the British TV series aired on E4 received much acclaim for its dark, acidic and extremely funny narrativization of a group of teenagers. By devoting an episode to 9-11, the narrative diverts the audience’s focus by explicitly staging 9-11, and the collapse of the towers in the form of a musical, with the ascendancy of the first black U.S president, Barack Hussein Obama operating in the background. The narrative both diverts (engrosses and entertains) and surprises the viewer, precisely by staging 9-11 as a teen musical rather than referring to it as a real event.  The reality of the staged event is further queered through the shifting frames of sexuality and gender, where the central characters in the musical shift genders and sexual orientations while mouthing paens of praise to Obama in the wake of the horror of 9-11. Teen television grows up.

By tackling an important political event through the form of musical staging, and queering terror by scripting it through sexual and gender malleability, it offers two things: firstly, a reconsideration of the xenophobic, nationalist and sexually normative framing of 9-11; secondly, an emphasis on the narrative strategies of diversion, detouring and displacement that undermine hegemonic discourses of Us and Them, normality and deviancy, peace and war. By reframing and queering (the war on) Terror, staging an event as a staged event itself and diverting hegemonic narratives, the paper argues that forms of narrativization (television teen series, musicals, theatre) queer ‘9-11’ as an object of discourse, and furnish crucial interventionary tactics for thwarting the discursive and geopolitical strategies triggered in the wake of the war on terror.

panel H

Dr Michael Stewart (Queen Margaret University)
Death of a President and the Threat of Terrorism
This paper examines a recent collection of hypothetical docudramas which gives substance to the threat of terrorism. The paper’s focus is Death of a President (2006), but it argues that this text shares important features with other similarly produced docudramas. These texts are highly produced and were generally well received. Moreover, it is argued by some media studies scholars that the docudrama form is unusually productive in its ability to offer resources for critical public sphere debates. The paper argues, however, that the texts in question exploit their ontological ambiguity to conservative ends and are best understood as a particular type of television – traumatic and historical event television. As such, the paper argues that the texts operate via excess, simultaneity, disavowal and legitimation. They exhibit, for example, an excess of aesthetic modes; an excess of words and testimonies; an excess of indexical and hyper-realism; but also an excess of apparent shock and uncertainty. They also appeal to audiences as simultaneously victims and perpetrators; victims and witnesses; and expert witnesses and judges. In so doing, the paper argues, the texts disavow particular political and economic perspectives and legitimate a number of linked cultural technologies and modes of understanding – for example, forensic, legal and managerial technologies; and guilt, contrition and trauma as natural responses to the threat of terrorism.

Dr Paul Foster (University of Chester) and Dr Katy Parry (University of Liverpool)
War Horse: The Equine Encounter in Post-9/11 War Films
In this paper we consider the development of the war genre with reference to three war films produced post-9/11 but set during earlier wars in the Middle East: Jarhead (2005), Waltz with Bashir (2008) and Lebanon (2009). Formally innovative, each of the three films possesses strong contemporary overtones, including sardonic allusions to the Twin Towers attack, and offer commentaries on terror, trauma and disturbed memories of war. Of particular interest is the recurring trope of the equine encounter. In Jarhead (2005), marine Anthony Swofford encounters an oil-drenched horse in the flame-lit desert nightscape; in Waltz with Bashir (2008), a military photographer’s detachment collapses following an encounter with maimed horses during which he sees his own reflection in the eye of a dead horse; in Lebanon (2009), the tank-eye-view zooms in on an eviscerated donkey, terror reflected in its dying eyes. The ‘beast of burden’ holds powerful symbolism in terms of grace and nobility. We consider how the protagonist soldiers are positioned in their proximity to these beasts, as well as the role of the equine encounter in the post-9/11 cinematic depiction of warfare more generally.

Dr Graham Barnfield (University of East London)
A Hostel Environment: Gorno Attitudes in the Western World
Britain’s ‘video nasties’ panic (1984-1986) was sometimes explained in terms of audience incomprehension. Parents and legislators, whose perceptions of the horror genre were confined to Hammer films and such occasional Hollywood hits as The Omen were dismayed that, say, Italian giallo films were part of the home video revolution. Fast forward two decades and it is perhaps surprising that the ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorno’ genre is now big business. A lucrative instalment in the Saw franchise is now an annual ritual at Halloween; Eli Roth’s Hostel looked set to establish a similar tradition until pirate copying of a leaked workprint depressed the profitability of the sequel.

Hostel’s audience included US soldiers stationed in Iraq; considerable play was made of this during interview junkets and other promotional activities prior to Hostel 2. Roth argued that his movies gave military men and women a licence to be scared while some distance from the combat zone. Whereas recent controversies over mixing torture and entertainment – e.g. with 24 – hinge on whether film and TV endorse brutality, the discourse around ‘gorno’ seems to encourage ‘safe spaces’ for (fictitious) victimization, even extended to professionals at war. This paper explores the ramifications of this trend, with reference to the changing relationship between intimacy, humiliation and social norms.

panel I

Allen Ball (University of Alberta)
Photography in a State of Exception: Documents of contemporary war
As a counter to filmic representations of contemporary warfare, through still photography, my project, ‘Photography in a State of Exception: Documents of contemporary war’ maps out the visible and invisible traces that remain on the surface of the militarized landscape of the Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO) base at El Gorah in Northern Sinai.

In December 2005, I accepted a volunteer post in the Canadian Forces Artist Program (CFAP) to undertake a tour of duty under the auspices of Operation CALUMET, that took place be­tween June 2-11, 2007. My mission was to witness and document the daily lives of Canadians serving in the armed forces in fulfilment of CFAP’s mandate. The photographic images I took during my post with Operation CALUMET depict meetings between the physical landscape of El Gorah; the large-scale architectural presence of the MFO; and military personnel situated within their role-specific daily tasks and the immense physical infrastructure of the base. These images reflect and record the way in which contemporary military strategy has moved away from traditional forms of military engagement, and illustrate the increasing significance of new communication technologies and social labour in military operations. Consistent with the observations of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri on contemporary warfare, which they describe as the general, global, and permanent state of exception from the rule of law, my fieldwork documented military functions that were decorporealized, bodiless or virtual interventions. Such interventions rely upon the MFO base, itself, as a site of pure representation. Regionally, the MFO operates more as a witness than as an actor in its theatre of war, thus, the problem of representation is central to both the form and content of Photography in a State of Exception.

Further, acknowledging that my engagement in the field at Operation CALUMET was facilitated by the Canadian Forces, questions regarding my own subjectivity are foregrounded in this project and unavoidable. Finding a parallel with the contemporary practice of embedding journalists within military operations, my exposure to events was mediated by the geographic and social itineraries of the armed forces. Therefore, a self-reflexive and critical awareness of the contradictions intrinsic to the environment is crucial. The conditions of my exposure to my subject was an important part of what I documented. In other words, my project constitutes a visual ethnography of an embedded artist. At the heart of my proposal lies the question of how does an artist represent the experience of contemporary warfare?

Rune Saugmann Andersen (University of Copenhagen)
Representing the 2009 Iranian post-election conflict. #IranElection, visual discourse and citizen documentary
The 2009 post-election crisis in Iran positioned Iranian unrest on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and innumerable blogs, as well as front pages, newscasts, and talk shows across the world, spurring both intense debate about the new genre of citizen documentary and many attempts to influence the power struggle between Iranian authorities and the ‘green’ dissident movement.

This paper looks at media representations of the post-election crisis. It critically discusses the oddities and possibilities of visual discourse, and explores what these mean in relation to citizen-driven documentation of the post-election crisis. It zooms in on how citizen-produced media content transgress the genres of documentary and news, and explores the interplay of citizen-produced content and mass news media narratives in representing the conflict. Crucially, it argues that the tight control of traditional media outlets and the richness of multi-modal content of online, citizen-driven media led to the conflict being represented in western news media in terms of how it was mediated: as a repressive regime versus a more liberal and tech-savvy group of protesters, a narrative representing the green movement in terms of their use of popular online media, linking western news audiences to the green movement in a story of ‘common identity through common online media practice’.

Dr Patrick Tarrant (London South Bank University)
Camera Movies: Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot Them!
This paper analyses four recent documentaries that all involve filmmakers handing multiple cameras over to their participant-subjects. It investigates the different ways these films address themselves to the active audience in a contemporary participatory culture, what meaning they attribute to their subject-participants, and what they tell us about the contemporary documentary filmmaker. The figure of the ‘camera movie’ captures the paradox inherent in the idea that when a filmmaker gives up control of the authorial camera neither the camera nor the filmmaker recede into the background, they simply take up a more central and celebrated place within a participatory culture.

In The War Tapes (Scranton, USA, 2006) cameras are taken into battle, producing a visceral sense of being there. But this technique also evokes the first-person perspective of video games and disturbingly blurs two meanings of the phrase ‘I Fuckin’ Shot That!’ Here the people who are shot not only die, they are also filmed being eaten by dogs. And although these images are the only ones censored by the army, their content is nonetheless narrated in a to-camera piece by the soldier who shot the footage. The story thereby becomes one about censorship (what I shot), rather than violence (who I shot), and rather too-neatly offers up the jargon of authenticity as a riposte to political correctness and cultural sensitivities.

Saturday 11 September

panel J

Dr Elaine Martin (University of Alabama)
Terrorism in Film Media: From Feature Films to TV Miniseries
Feature-length films about terrorism can be divided into various categories, divided by date, topic, and approach.  For example, films made before 9/11/2001 dealt with terrorism in Algeria, Germany, Ireland, Chile, Brazil, and India.  Films made since 11 September 2001 have dealt with Italy, Palestine, the United States, Germany and the UK, among other countries.  Other categories would distinguish between heroic films focused on victims, rescuers and survivors and Third Cinema films that represent the perspective of the perpetrators or terrorists and make a political statement.  The former type of heroic film is particularly characteristic of Hollywood films such as Syriana, The Grid, Flight 93, United 93, World Trade Center, and 9/11.  This trend is revisionist in its selective focus on heroes and survivors, much like recent films about the Holocaust such as Defiance, The Counterfeiters, or Tarantino’s controversial Inglourious Basterds.  The second category of films, most of which belong to the Third Cinema tradition, includes The War Within, Paradise Now, and The Terrorist about suicide bombers as well as Good Morning, Night and Four Days in September about hostage takings—all of which offer a sharp socio-political critique.  The perspective of the terrorist(s) — as well as a sympathetic representation of the terrorists themselves — is unique in these works and represents an approach made famous by Pontecorvo in his 1965 The Battle of Algiers.  Other recent films were made in Western countries but also adhere to the Third Cinema tradition, such as Tykwer’s Heaven, Edel’s The Baader Meinhof Complex, and Schlöndorff’s The Legend of Rita (Die Stille nach dem Schuss) — a phenomenon which raises the question of differences among first, second, and third cinema films.

Almost all US television drama series have embraced the topic of terrorism in some form since 2001, albeit only after a hiatus of several years.  This time lag was true of film treatments of 9/11 as well: the film 9/11 appeared in 2002, but the other three major treatments to date were all released in 2006.  Of note is, additionally, the HBO 18-hour series Sleeper Cell (2005-06) about a terrorist cell in Los Angeles infiltrated by an American Muslim who is an undercover FBI agent.  Finally, a sitcom entitled The Cell has been pitched to various networks in the US but so far not produced — the objections being that the topic is too explosive and that the proposed series is 20 years before its time.  This proposal raises the issue of using humour to confront terrorism: is it appropriate or does it trivialize the victims’ suffering?  A case in point is the feature film Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008), which uses comedy to deal with a serious topic.

Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky (University of East London)
The Camp Trilogy: Michael’s Winterbottom’s In This World, Code 46 and The Road to Guantanamo
This paper elaborates and expands on Giorgio Agamben’s thesis that ‘Today it is not the city but rather the camp that is the fundamental biopolitical paradigm of the West’ through a discussion of three films: In This World, Code 46 and The Road to Guantanamo, made by one of Britain’s most prolific and controversial directors, Michael Winterbottom.  All three of these films were released and received in the atmosphere of fear that has prevailed in Britain since 9/11 and intensified with the July 7, 2005 attack in London by what the media like to call ‘home-grown terrorists,’ i.e. British-born Muslims perceived as the ‘enemy within.’ The London 7/7 bombing has triggered an ongoing public debate in Britain about traditional thinking on race and the need to redefine the project of multicultural society, the status of Muslims and Islam in British society, the emergence of faith and religious identity and the commitment to a new equality and human rights agenda, putting into crisis Britishness itself.  Each of the films in this trilogy introduces a different representation of the idea of the camp and the real and symbolic space it occupies in what Naomi Klein perceptively describes as ‘disaster capitalism’ based on the ‘shock doctrine’. In considering the connection between Europe’s migrant populations and the ‘camp’ through Winterbottom’s trilogy, this paper expands the focus from the European migration debate to the broader questions of the global discussion on migration, crime and terrorism.

Prof. Eva Bakøy and Prof. Øyvind Kalnes (Lillehammer University College)
Female Suicide Bombers and the Family Melodrama
It is a common belief that women are more likely to choose peaceful mechanisms for conflict resolution than men. But women have been operatives in more than half of the suicide bombings in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Chechnya and Columbia (Bloom 2005). This paper compares and contrasts the construction of female suicide bombers in two award-winning films: the Norwegian documentary My Daughter: the Terrorist (Beate Arnestad and Morte Daae 2007) and the Indian feature film Theeviravaathi: The Terrorist (Shantosh Shiva 1999). Both films are in-depth studies of why young girls choose to become terrorists. The comparison is based on a discourse analysis which investigates the hierarchy of voices in the films, the content of the dialogues and the camerawork. The analysis also reflects upon how the construction of the female suicide bombers is influenced by the different genre affiliations of the films, and by the different cultural backgrounds of the directors. The paper argues that both films frame their protagonists in a family melodrama and construct stories that marginalize the political opinions of the women. They differ however in how they interpret the psychological condition of the female suicide bombers. While the Indian film stresses heroism, martyrdom and conscious choice, the Norwegian film tells a story of kidnapping, brainwashing and psychological malfunctioning.

panel K

Dr Philip Hammond (London South Bank University)
Comedy of Terror
Common criticisms of dramas about the War on Terror are that they offer only a limited political critique and fail to explain and contextualise contemporary war and acts of terror.  Satirical and comedic treatments of the war on terror have been largely immune from such criticism, since they raise little or no expectation of critique or explanation, but in fact can be seen as providing a riposte to it.  This paper argues that comic treatments of terrorists (e.g. Four Lions, 2010), of the build up to war (e.g. In the Loop, 2009) and of anti-war celebrities (e.g. Team America: World Police, 2004) in some respects offer more accurate characterisations of contemporary politics than more earnest, ‘straight’ treatments.

Where some films have tried (or failed) to examine the political machinations behind the march to war, or to understand the causes of terrorism in oppression and injustice, for example, comedies have presented causes as accidental, absurd, or even non-existent.  In this respect, comedies have captured the emptiness of contemporary politics, the inchoate character of contemporary terrorism, and the narcissistic nature of contemporary protest.  Moreover, this interpretation implies a reappraisal of non-comic dramas, whereby attempts at explanation are not necessarily a strength, and political critique has to take new forms.

James Walker (University for the Creative Arts)
Cartoon Wars: Appropriating culture and the destruction of Imagination Land
This paper considers how animation has responded to the events of 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’. In particular it highlights the significant lack of governmental animated films supporting the war compared to World War Two, the Cold War and even Vietnam. In contrast animation studios tended to disengage from responding to the event leaving it to independent animators such as Simon Robson’s What Barry Says (2003) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO_8RwXMMwI] and Taking Liberties (2007) studios to respond. The paper questions the appropriation of animated cultural history and icons by groups in support, resistance and questioning the ‘war on terror’ while others use this appropriation as part of larger ideological war as exemplified in the Fatah vs. Hamas animation [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waJLsTIohd8].

South Park has continued to respond to 9/11, the ‘war on terror’, the Bush administration, and celebrity culture in equal measure as illustrated in the episodes Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants (episode 509), Cartoon Wars (1003-4) and Imaginationland (episode 1110-12). In the Imaginationland episode creatures and beings created by human imagination are attacked by terrorists and the government ask Hollywood to use their imagination to save Imaginationland. Broadcast in 2007 these last three episodes present a critique of the iconography of American culture and intangibility that the declared ‘war on terror’ represented for many and the remoteness of the physical war in Iraq and Afghanistan. While more personal, reflective animated features dealing with the direct aspects of war, terror, ideology and revolution were explored in Waltz with Bashir (2008) and Persepolis (2007).

panel L

Dr Peter Morey (University of East London)
Passing Strangers: Turning America Inside Out in Sleeper Cell
Post-9/11 television thrillers have often been accused of a complicity with Western government agendas in the War on Terror, and criticised for a tendency to deploy stereotyped depictions of Muslims. Among the most frequently cited examples of such ideological loading are Fox’s 24, and the company’s transatlantic co-production with the BBC, The Grid, while the BBC’s own popular spy series, Spooks has also had its detractors.

This paper argues that the 2006 Showtime drama series Sleeper Cell offers a refreshing corrective to some of the more egregious representations of the two ‘sides’ in the War on Terror. To be sure, it lays out certain stereotypes of its own. However, not only does the series feature the first Muslim-American FBI agent to be the hero of a mainstream TV thriller, it also enacts a fundamental interrogation of the supposed ontological difference between ‘the American’ and his/her Islamist nemesis. It does so through a reworking of the age-old US trope of ‘passing’, more familiar from early twentieth-century black/white race politics; the ethnically diverse members of the sleeper cell are all able to ‘pass’ as regular Americans in a world where that identity itself is performed through lifestyle choices and types of consumption. Along with this interrogation of the supposedly sealed borders of identity, the series also undertakes a critique of what it means to be an American without access to the material advantages of that middle class affluence habitually taken to embody America-under-attack in 24. Here, the flotsam and jetsam of society – for whom the American Dream has never come true – play host to a parasitic presence that threatens to consume them all. Yet in this show there is no Jack Bauer, with his 24-hour hotline to the Whitehouse, to save the day, only an African-American Muslim agent who is both deniable and expendable, but whose pragmatic yet devout faith makes him a comparative moral beacon and an embodiment of ‘acceptable’ Islam with whom audiences can identify.

Hugh Ortega Breton (Roehampton University)
Screening for Meaning: Terrorism as the product of a Paranoid Style in Politics and Popular Culture
Prior to but especially after 2001, danger, fear (and excitement) appear to characterise the world we inhabit, as represented in programmes such as Spooks, Dispatches and The Conspiracy Files; dramatising the life less ordinary and evoking emotive meanings. Using a psycho-cultural studies approach I will present analyses of the representation of paranoid anxieties and their objectification in these terrorism related programmes. I will demonstrate how particular subjectivities and recurring ideas in these television narratives elicit and are determined by politicised emotions, which suggest that a paranoid style of coping resonates with some audiences in a risk-averse culture. These programmes are considered as necessary by-products of news and political discourse in light of scriptwriters’ attempts to connect meaningfully in a period of rising emotionalisation; decreasing political engagement and the perceived predominance of anxiety about perceived risks. This paper aims to provoke discussion about the symptomatic and projected expression of elite engineered and popular anxieties concerning meaningfulness in contemporary culture. I would like to discuss the consequences of ‘symbolic equation’ (conflations of subjective fantasies with objective reality in politics, through mediatisation and in programme formats) for political agency and what this suggests about our political and popular culture generally.

Dr Jack Holland (Leeds University)
‘The Klan Gone Medieval’: Filling the Post 9-11 Void in NBC’s The West Wing
On 11 September 2001, America(ns) experienced the blurring of the real and the unreal as they struggled to make sense of the unfolding events.  Stunned silence, shock and disbelief characterised the immediate and uneasy void in meaning.  Slowly, in the following days, readings of 9-11 began to harmonise across society around the ‘official’ narration of events.  It was in this immediate post 9/11 context that Adam Sorkin’s The West Wing delivered a special one-off episode, outside of usual storylines.  This episode is interesting for a number of reasons.  Beyond contributing to notions of rupture and exceptionalism, the ‘Isaac and Ishmael’ episode adopts an explicitly pedagogical theme to teach viewers how to think about 9/11.  This paper argues that, despite the ‘liberal’ and ‘academic’ lessons given by the shows stars, the episode should be read as an instance in the wider construction of 9/11 as a moment and marker of crisis.  The extensive contextualisation of the previously incomprehensible events for a dominantly American audience served to relay, amplify and reinforce the emerging dominant discourses of the Bush Administration.  Accepting and repeating official tropes, The West Wing ultimately served to further limit space for debate in the wake of 9/11.

panel M

David Hickman (University of York)
Formatting the War on Terror: A personal account
For several months or more after 9/11, the attacks were practically off-limits to filmmakers.  Slowly, documentary films started to appear – notably the Naudet Brothers’ 9/11 (2002), and Henry Singer’s The Falling Man (2006) – although not without much controversy about whether they should have been made or broadcast.

But 9/11 would eventually prove to be fertile ground for format developers, at a time when dramatic reconstruction was at a peak of popularity among European and American broadcasters.

Between 2004 and 2008, I produced and directed films – all of them within formats sold internationally – about incidents inside the first plane to strike the World Trade Centre, the Bali bombing of 2002, the capture of Saddam Hussain, an SAS raid on hostage-taking gangs in Sierra Leone, and a British journalist arrested on suspicion of espionage in Pakistan’s border territory with Afghanistan and imprisoned in the network of jails holding al Qaeda prisoners.

So this is a story from the front-line – not of the ‘war’ (nowhere near), but of the competitive struggle to format it, and the often-surreal experiences and consequences of filtering the attacks and their aftermath through the format ‘rules’.

Janet Harris (Cardiff University)
Iraq: How the war was spun
By looking at the television news and documentary coverage of the British military at two critical times in Iraq, and from my own experience of making documentaries about the British army in Iraq, I consider how the war in Iraq has been represented.

On 2 September 2007 the British military withdrew from Basra palace.  Basrawis regarded this not as an orderly withdrawal, but as an ignominious defeat.  Has this been reflected in the British television coverage of the British military?  The dominant discourse of six of the eight documentaries on the British military in 2006/2007 is emotional, casting the military in terms of psychological and physical dysfunction.

On 25 March 2008 the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki launched his ‘Charge of the Knights’ operation to restore order in Basra without consulting the British.  Television news frames it as a purely Iraqi concern, of no responsibility to the 4,100 British troops nearby, whose stated aim was to ‘secure and rebuild the country’.

In this paper I look at this coverage, at how problems of access, lack of knowledge, MoD manipulation, and production practices contributed to the spinning of the war in Iraq, in which the discourse of the war as a failure was not broadcast.

John Conroy (Freelance Documentary Maker)
Victim Television for a Victim’s War
The predominant content of documentary coverage of the Afghan war is the portrayal of the suffering soldier’s story.  Through these films we are invited to have an emotionalised, therapeutic relationship with the suffering of the squaddie.  This coverage has significantly contributed to public confusion about the war - its causes and solutions - because the minutiae of the soldier’s tactical perspective is put under the spotlight instead of broader political and cultural considerations.  The narrow and inevitably tragic character of the soldier’s death or wounding becomes our only way of responding to the war.  As a consequence, a sense of purposelessness and defeatism dominates documentary contributions to public debate.  This coverage is creating a form of emotionalised censorship in which the soldier-victim is privileged over other perspectives, in a circular argument that closes down critical thinking.  The reduction of the debate to the emotional cost of war and continuous exercises in hand-wringing leads us down an intellectual dead end.  It effectively silences public questioning of the conflict beyond a defeatist, moral cry for politicians to ‘bring our boys home’.

panel N

Dr. Rasha El-Ibiary (The American University in Cairo)
From Britain Prepared to World Trade Center: Comparing War Film Propaganda in the World Wars and the War on Terror
Throughout the cultural history of wars, war films have always been a major tool of spreading misinformation to demoralize the enemy and to contain, pacify and induce the audience at home to join the war effort. War films represent a crucial historical tool of defining perceived victories and potential losses, and to spread info-strategic warfare to perceived enemies to direct the conduct of war by controlling its representation. This is especially so nowadays, with the great advances of information technology and the stark resemblance between technology through which wars are conducted, and eventually covered. The film industry, historically and today, is a crucial site for applying all forms of  military propaganda and censorship measures, and for spreading decisive info-strategic warfare. By closely tracing the development of war film propaganda and drawing a sharp comparison between film propaganda during the First and Second World Wars, on the one side, and the US-led War on Terror on the other, this paper argues that despite the advances in media and communication technologies, the currently exercised techniques of propaganda in Hollywood films since 9/11 have benefited by-and-large from the techniques featured by Charles Mastermind in World War I and Joseph Goebbels in World War II.

Jonathan Bullinger and Andrew J. Salvati (Rutgers University)
Selling the War on Terror through the Branding of World War Two
In pursuit of a global ‘War on Terror’ accelerated by 9/11, U.S. policy and ideological practice operates within a ‘just war’ paradigm, moored in an imagined collective memory of World War Two (WW2). As the ‘greatest generation’ passes on, this mediated history has evolved through stages - from actual global conflict, into mythology, and solidifying today as a commodified brand.

Brand WW2 is a set of institutionalized representations that have coalesced over the past several decades into a distinct form complementary to dominant ideological needs. Drawing on Barthes’s notion of mythology as history transformed into nature, we posit the idea of ‘brand’ as a construct of late capitalism, in which history and ideology are linked within a saleable, self-referential unit. Using a common aesthetic and narrative elements to construct a unified brand personality, WW2 has become a homogeneous entity employed by multiple cultural producers that informs, and is informed by dominant ideology.

This ideology has set the tone for much of 20th century US foreign policy. Through the narrative of the ‘good war’, it has influenced the paradigm in which US interventionism has been constituted politically, and represented culturally, and which has continued through the current global war on terror.

Ricardo Domizio  (London South Bank University)
Gulf War comes home: Hollywood’s ‘digital memory’ of desert warfare
This paper aims to chart and explore the infiltration of desert warfare imagery in recent Hollywood cinema. Films directly ‘about’ the Iraq invasion of 2003 (such as The Hurt Locker) have become commonplace in recent years and are testament to a rapid ‘memorializing’ function of Hollywood cinema. However, more interesting are those film texts that are not war films per se, but nevertheless contain images of desert warfare. Taking Michael Bay’s Transformers cycle (2007 and 2009) as a test case this paper will go beyond a traditional ideological reading to suggest that such digital action cinema is prone to reconfigure such an event as the Iraq invasion in ‘schizophrenic’ ways, harbouring a kind of thought that exceeds ‘cultural memory’. Instead, using Deleuze’s Bergsonism, I assert that the imbrication of desert war imagery in the Transformers franchise speaks of a ‘digital memory’, one that glimpses the virtual whilst dissolving the linear categories of past, present and future.


Prof. Cynthia Weber (University of Sussex)
‘I am an American’: Filming the Fear of Difference
On September 21, 2001 – 10 days after 9/11 – the American Advertizing Council (hereafter The Ad Council) launched its ‘I am an American’ campaign.  The campaign featured 30 and 60 second Public Service Announcements broadcast on US television in which a montage of US citizens of various ages, races, religions, and ethnicities look directly into the camera and declare ‘I am an American’.  The US motto – ‘E Pluribus Unum’, ‘Out of Many, One’ – appears on the screen.  The final shot is of a young girl – possibly Arab, possibly South Asian, possibly Hispanic.  She rides her bike in Brooklyn Bridge Park across the river from where the Twin Towers used to be.  Smiling broadly, the little girl waves a US flag.  According the Ad Council, the ‘I am an American’ campaign ‘helped the country to unite in the wake of the terrorist attacks’ by ‘celebrat[ing] the nation’s extraordinary diversity’ (Ad Council, 2004).

The ‘I am an American’ campaign illustrates how the Ad Council encourages one of its stated aims – the promotion of ‘community well being’ – through its celebration of the myth of the American melting pot.  In so doing, the PSA seems to support a US ideal of the tolerance of difference within the US community during a time of terror, to the point that the celebration of diversity itself becomes a patriotic ideal (Alsultany, 2007).  This presentation contests the content and the function of the ‘I am an American’ PSA, both through an historical and theoretical discussion of the PSA and through an alternative series of documentary films and images.

Prof. Lynn Spigel (Northwestern University)
From TV to Transmedia Terror
In the US, the coverage of 9/11 took place at a moment when the TV industry as well as its cultural power were undergoing a series of changes wrought by numerous forces, most obviously the synergies and competitions with digital media in the transmedia environment. In some ways the US coverage of 9/11 may have been the last 'classic' media event produced by the old three network system, but already at that time the multichannel system and the Internet were changing the ways in which people experienced the TV coverage and the event itself. Since this time many critics have pondered the 'end of TV' (internationally) as people, at least in the West, knew it. This paper explores how US television has historically related tales of terror (in news and fiction) and how this has changed in the multi-channel / transmedia environment.

Prof. Brigitte Nacos (Columbia University)
The Image of Evil: Why Screen Narratives of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Matter in Real Life Politics of Counterterrorism Policies
The traditional stereotyping of particular groups, such as Blacks, Arabs, Muslims, and women, in motion pictures and TV-drama has been well documented. These biases were not and are not restricted to a distinct make-believe entertainment realm but were part and parcel of TV infotainment news. Thus, in post-9/11 America televised news segments about the pros and cons of torturing terrorists or suspected terrorists were typically introduced by clips from motion pictures or television shows. Whether counterterrorism hero Jack Bauer or New York City detective Andy Sipowicz, they succeeded in ‘tuning up’ bad guys to reveal information crucial to prevent terror attacks or crimes. The evil-doers and the heroic protectors of a threatened nation were not merely actors in fictitious drama but turned into authoritative figures in real life mass-mediated debates and secret policy decisions during the Bush presidency.

This presentation explores the consequences of stereotypical depictions of ‘evil’ terrorists on the one hand and heroic ‘good guys’ on the other hand, the blurred lines between entertainment and news in this respect, the impact on the perceptions of elites and the general public, and the effects on counterterrorism policies. Examples focus particularly on the treatment of fictitious and actual detainees held in U.S.-run prisons abroad as part of the so-called war on terrorism.