Peace Scholar Post: Genre and Peace in Film

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Aimée Fisher from Augustana College, Sioux Falls.  

Aimee photoDialogue is movement and a stepping stone on our journey to peace. Our first two weeks here in Norway have been eye-opening. During our stay at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, Steinar Bryn mentioned that we move best when we are traveling. A personal goal of mine for the summer is to never stop asking questions and to continue truly moving through each day. As the only Peace Scholar taking the Scandinavian Film class at the ISS, I am paying close attention to how the media and popular culture influence and question our societal norms and relations.

I’ve found the concept of genre in my film class to relate heavily to my experiences in the Peace Scholars Seminar. Genre is an interesting convention in popular culture, especially film. It impacts and maintains ideologies, distracts from societal issues, and, more commonly, reflects a society’s doubts and anxieties. On the topic of peace and conflict resolution, it is important to understand that our perceptions affect any conflict situation whether or not we are mediators. Part of our duty as peace-builders and researchers is to constantly question our most basic assumptions. Questioning those basic roles and events portrayed in popular culture is one way we can move as individuals and as a society.

Currently we are watching Susanne Bier’s film, Brødre (Brothers), which created an uproar in Denmark after its debut. Brødre questions Denmark’s joining of the Coalition in Afghanistan and the line between those who are “at war” and those who are connected to the war at home. Unlike the Danish version, the Hollywood remake focuses on the American sense of duty and support of soldiers at war even if one does not support the war. It is interesting to focus on the subtle nuances in film to grasp what directors, producers, and film institutes highlight in terms of political and social plights in various countries. These individuals can heavily influence and reaffirm our cultural and political biases. When we step out of a genre convention into a film that encourages viewers to question basic assumptions and existential questions on war and peace, we are in an entirely different position. This is not to say that the typical romantic comedy isn’t enjoyable because, let’s face it, we’re all suckers for movies like Love Actually and 500 Days of Summer.  Moving forward I think we need to be more analytic of the perspectives and assumptions Hollywood feeds us and to be aware of those stories and histories that are hidden within our societies.

I believe an integral part of our role as individuals is to encourage movement through questioning popular culture. Scandinavian film typically does not comply to genre conventions thus allowing viewers to move. When we begin to question and uncover the hidden histories in films I believe we will be taking an important step toward dialogue and more holistic peace.



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