The Form and Content of Human Rights Film: Teaching Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower

Sarah Hamblin


This essay argues that the consistent association of human rights film with historical accuracy as a means of raising awareness has led human rights education to focus on filmic content, with fiction films being used primarily as case studies about particular atrocities or as opportunities to discuss more general ethical issues. While the subject matter of human rights films is certainly a major component of human rights education, I maintain that this singular focus prohibits students from examining how a film is situated within a specific matrix of geopolitical power relations and cultural presuppositions. This presumption of truth thus normalizes a westernized worldview, obscuring its ideological foundations and the geopolitical structures that give human rights discourse its universality and function. Using Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower as a teaching case study, this essay demonstrates how an attention to stylistic and generic conventions helps us understand how a film may educate about a particular human rights issue while at the same time propagate the very logics of geopolitical inequality that are implicated in its emergence.

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