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Cinema of compassion: Andrea Segre and Emmanuel Levinas

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This article discusses filmmaker and sociologist Andrea Segre’s film productions, documentaries and fiction films by applying the theoretical filter of Emmanuel Levinas’s Other-centred philosophy. Segre’s filmmaking may exemplify an Italian ‘cinema of compassion’ that responds to and reflects on the cultural shock of seeing the mass approach of the Other – the immigrant. This cinema reflects the unsettling uneasiness of the encounter, while orienting it towards the necessary effect of compassion. Segre was not trained as a filmmaker – a professional in ‘seeing’ the Other – but as a sociologist – a professional in ‘feeling’ and ‘listening to’ the Other. French, Lithuanian-born Jew, Emmanuel Levinas, proposed a philosophy that centres on the ‘constitutive Other’. This concept can convincingly apply to Segre’s films (and much documentary filmmaking) for four main reasons. First, Segre’s movies place the Other at the centre (in the documentary films) or stress it as a dialectic term, a co-protagonist/antagonist (in the fiction films). Second, his movies reject, at the same time as they invite, the identification of Same–Other by respecting the otherness of the Other. Third, they elicit or enact the sentiment of compassion. Finally, these films leave the ‘infinite’ weight of responsibility on the viewers.
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Keywords: Italy; Mediterranean; Other; documentary; immigration; philosophy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Florida Atlantic University

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.
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