Creating the Witness examines the role of film and the Internet in creating virtual witnesses to genocide over the past one hundred years. Leshu Torchin’s broad survey of media and the social practices around it investigates the development of popular understandings of genocide to achieve recognition and response, ultimately calling on viewers to act on behalf of human rights.
What resonated most for me within Manovich’s chapter “The New Language of Cinema”, and which relates to our ‘space-time’ theme, is his discussion of the spatial montage. He cites cultural geographer Edward Soja in prefacing the renewed interest in spatial montage, stating that “…it is only in the last decades of the twentieth century that this mode has made a powerful comeback, as exemplified by the growing importance of such concepts as “geopolitics” and “globalization” as well as by the key role that analysis of space plays in the theories of postmodernism” (323). I’d like to briefly explore filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem as emblematic of this particular claim, specifically drawing on her film In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (2009). Deann becomes a integral player in this kind of wave of spatial montage (or experimentation with such within the documentary filmic form) in a service to a geopolitical analysis of her identity as a Asian transnational adoptee. The film serves as a sequel to her first autobiographical documentary First Person Plural(1999), and takes us on her journey back to South Korea to find the girl Cha Jung Hee who she replaced years ago at the orphanage and whose identity she has assumed throughout her adolescence. Deann’s personal exploration and journey becomes a story about a collective, historically-infused experience of transnational exchange that stems from neocolonial economics and politics from the 1940s onward between South Korea and the United States. She takes up the use of spatial montage within her documentary in order to provide a visibility as well as spatiotemporal simultaneity to the different identities that she has simultaneously assumed her entire life.