A death in the Asia Pacific: three documentaries by Annie Goldson

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This article discusses a trilogy of films directed by contemporary New Zealand documentary filmmaker, Annie Goldson. Punitive Damage (1999), An Island Calling (2008) and Brother Number One (2011) each consider the murder of a New Zealand citizen in another nation in the Asia Pacific (East Timor, Fiji and Cambodia, respectively). A close family member recounts the life and death of this individual and the politically charged circumstances in which these murders occurred. This essay considers how the trilogy constructs an address to the viewer, given both the expressive, aesthetic dimensions of the films and their modes of distribution. The films pose the family member who has lost a loved one as a key site of empathy in the documentaries and the use of testimony reinforces this. However as the films clearly show, the deaths that occur are not isolated - they are the result of local histories of catastrophe and cultural shifts, including genocide, occupation and colonialism. Yet, the point of view of the Western subject is at the center of these stories. This essay explores how this subject, and their testimony, is foregrounded in the films and what is at stake in this outsider documentary rendering of events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21 - 32
Number of pages12
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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