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“I'll Show You My Wounds”: Engaging Suffering through Film

Authors

  • Alberto Guevara,

  • Elysée Nouvet


Abstract

This article draws on the authors’ experience making a film about pesticide-afflicted ex-banana plantation workers in Nicaragua. Addressed are the practical, ethical, and aesthetic possibilities and challenges of visualizing the bodily dimensions of social inequality through film. How can one represent bodily dimensions of structural violence given the particularity of all visceral knowledge? How can one, in the making of films that travel across cultural and class boundaries, make local epistemologies of suffering felt? Susan Sontag has noted that the West has developed a pornographic appetite for the suffering of others. This appetite connects into a wider economy Gomez-Peña has called the “mainstream bizarre,” one in which all that is different—bodies, experiences, persons—in their infinite guises and regardless of their authors’ intentions, are consumed in a manner in which they are emptied of political agency. While acknowledging the representational risks and potential pitfalls associated with the graphic showing of affliction, the authors present their strategies and reasoning for doing just this. It is the presence, rather than the absence, of the suffering body that can communicate Nicaraguan pesticide-afflicted protesters’ intention of making their pain visible and mediate local body-centered epistemologies of social inequality.

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