'Rough crossings' and 'Congo: white King, red rubber, black death': documentary, drama and radical otherness in history programming

Gray, Ann and Bell, Erin (2010) 'Rough crossings' and 'Congo: white King, red rubber, black death': documentary, drama and radical otherness in history programming. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 7 (3). pp. 459-478. ISSN 1743-4521

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/jbctv.2010.0107

Abstract

As scholars charting representations of the 1807 abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in the UK have noted, its portrayal on British radio and television was minimal until the recent bicentenary commemorations (Wilson 2007: 391). This article focuses on two examples from the BBC’s 2007 ‘Abolition Season’: Congo: White King,Red Rubber, Black Death, written and directed by Peter Bate, which first
aired in February 2004, and Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings. Drawing on Elsaesser's idea of the 'fractured viewer', we argue that in these cases the use of drama-documentary
has greater potential, both as historiography and for audience engagement,than ‘straightforward’ documentary, and especially when the topic predates the twentieth century, with little film footage and few, if any, surviving eyewitnesses. Furthermore, the continuing significance
of slavery and colonialism to modern nations leads us to consider drama-documentary a legitimate form of representation and of historiography for a past which, it is increasingly recognised, cannot be ‘a place of rest, certainty, reconciliation . . . of tranquillized sleep’
(Foucault 2006: 16), as Robert Harms (2007) has recently suggested of several cinematic representations of the transatlantic slave trade.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:History; Television; Slavery; Post-Colonial
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Media
ID Code:4115
Deposited By:INVALID USER
Deposited On:26 Mar 2011 14:15
Last Modified:04 Dec 2013 14:09

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