The Historical Image: Film, Productivity and the Politics of the Now

By Keith O’Regan.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the role of the historical image in Henri-François Imbert’s 2003 documentary No Pasarán, Album Souvenir. The paper argues that the film offers a fundamentally productive – in the sense of being useful in the contemporary moment – use of history. In other words, Imbert goes beyond making known that which is historically occluded from dominant accounts of history as he shows the importance of the historically occluded in (and for) the contemporary moment. By juxtaposing the plight of Spanish Civil War refugees in the 1930s and 1940s with that of contemporary refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, No Pasarán represents a break with traditional aesthetics as well as stereotypical accounts of migration in popular culture. By focusing on the interplay of history and the metaphor of water, the paper argues that Imbert follows Walter Benjamin’s eschewing of history “as it really was” and instead reads both history and the present against the grain.

Keywords: History, Aesthetics, Politics

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.19-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 948.747KB).

Keith O’Regan

PhD Candidate (ABD), Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Keith O’Regan is currently a PhD Candidate (ABD) in the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought at York University, Toronto (Canada). He is in the last stages of writing his dissertation, which focuses on the place of historical representation and a politics of the contemporary moment in the work of Bertolt Brecht and William Blake. He argues that both authors are vitally concerned with their political surroundings and in order to engage with it they articulate a redemptive politics of historical recovery. Outside of this project his chief interest is contemporary oppositional culture and the way in which history is used to advance a progressive political aesthetics. He has recently presented on work from Loach, Imbert, von Trotta and others. The place of the occluded Other in European film is an important focus in this regard.