Challenging the Narrative

Challenging the Narrative

Documentary Film as Participatory Practice in Conflict Situations

By Cahal McLaughlin

Filmmaker McLaughlin addresses the need to create platforms for survivors of political violence to tell their stories in order to challenge marginalizing narratives and injustices and as a form of public acknowledgement and personal healing.

Paperback, 110 Pages


May 2023

£20.99, $24.95

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

This book is a result of a ten-year follow-up to Telling Stories from Political Violence: A Filmmaker’s Journey (2012). It Stays with You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti (2018) addresses the impact of the use of lethal force in raids by the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) on the marginalized neighborhood of BoisNeuf, in Port-au-Prince, that left scores of civilians dead, many more injured, and domestic properties destroyed. Right Now I Want to Scream: Police and Army Killings in Rio -the Brazil Haiti Connection (2020) continues the issue of the use of lethal force in the increasing militarisation of security operations by authorities on civilians. In 2022, the final film in the trilogy We Never Give Up was producedon living with the legacy of apartheid violence in South Africa. Produced by the Human Rights Media Centre in Cape Town, the trilogy tells the stories of those from a variety of backgrounds – torture victims, displacement, assassination attempts – over a period of 20 years. Finally, the Prison’s Memory Archive is a collection of memories from the prisons during the political conflict known as the Troubles in the north of Ireland.

 In societies emerging out of, or still addressing, political violence, the need to create platforms for survivors to tell their stories as a form of public acknowledgement and personal healing is well documented. Some societies have created official forms, e.g. the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, while others rely on community, or bottom-up, initiatives, e.g. Accounts of the Conflict in Ireland. Each society, each community, and each project is contingent on the nature of the violence and the needs of the communities who have suffered. The use of documentary film, or audiovisual recording, is one such method of creating a platform for such purposes. The role of participatory practices is an important element in how such filmmaking might address issues of trauma, memory, and injustice.


“McLaughlin radically listens to stories of trauma most people do not want to hear. His exploration into these liminal spaces is an extensive study on participant-led mitigation of colonial violence and documentary hierarchy. It occupies a risky territory, between governments, terrorists, and political waves with innocent people at its core.” —Soumyaa Behrens, Director, Documentary Film Institute, Faculty, School of Cinema, San Francisco State University, USA.

“This timely book is valuable in its discussion of ethical issues and subject participation in documentary films where survivors of violence and trauma, generally excluded from public discourse, return to the locations of their traumatic experiences. The book challenges the notion of a one-size-fits-all ethical protocol for subject trust and collaboration.” —Dr Jill Daniels, Senior Lecturer Film, University of East London, UK.

Author Information

Cahal McLaughlin is Professor of Film Studies at Queen’s University Belfast and Director of the Prisons Memory Archive (


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Table of Contents

List of Figures; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1 Practice as Research; 2. Prisons Memory Archive; 3. It Stays with You; 4. Right Now I Want to Scream; 5. We Never Gave Up; Conclusion; References; Index


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