The sound of slow violence and the making of eco-documentary: This Creek
Stadelmann, Tanya Andrea
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Drawing from the field of ecocriticism and the history of experimental film, and in particular the work of post-colonial literary scholar Rob Nixon, the eco-critic Stacy Alaimo, and the film scholar Scott McDonald, this thesis considers the ways in which film can be used to dramatize and visualize stories of chemical violence in order to rouse public sentiment and warrant political intervention (Nixon) and to inspire a more environmentally aware worldview (McDonald). In this thesis, I explore the connection between the ecocritical ideas of slow violence, trans-corporeality and testimony (Nixon, Alaimo and Evans), and avant-garde film techniques (Tarkovsky, Kentridge and Baldwin) that inspired the making of eco-documentary, This Creek, a film that explores the social memory of residents living near the National Priority Listed Superfund site, Eighteen Mile Creek in Lockport, N.Y. Paying special attention to the political and affective potential of sound and voice to transmit and inscribe social memory, other ideas that inspired the creation of the film soundtrack include writings by Ihde, Abram, Rodaway and Dolar. Additionally, drawing on theories of 'cine-testimonio' by Sarkar, Walker, and Shaman, documentary film theory by AufderHeide, Beatie and Waterson, and social memory by Crane, Nora and Trouillot, I argue that environmental activism begins with the transformational exchange that occurs between witness and recipient. This thesis examines environmental activist memoirs: Love Canal, the story continues... (Gibbs, 1998), Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals (Brown, 1980) and documentary: In Our Own Backyard: the first Love Canal (Corcoran, 1982). These works provide examples that expose how previously invisible and silent facts have significantly changed history and national policies while sparking new environmental grass roots activism.