Staging Encounters with Estranged Pasts: Radu Jude’s The Dead Nation (2017) and the Cinematic Face of Public Memory of the Holocaust in Present-Day Romania
Abstract: This article provides a close analysis of Radu Jude’s The Dead Nation (2017), a documentary essay that brings together authentic archival sources documenting the persecution and murder of Jews in World War II. The sources include a little-known diary of Emil Dorian, a Jewish medical doctor and writer from Bucharest, a collection of photographs depicting scenes from Romanian daily life in the 1930s and 1940s, and recordings of political speeches and propaganda songs of a Fascist nature. Through a careful framing of this film in relation to Romanian public memory of World War II, and in connection to the popular new wave cinema, I will contend that Jude’s work acts, perhaps unwittingly, to intervene in public memory and invites the Romanian public to face up to and acknowledge the nation’s perpetrator past. This filmic intervention further offers an important platform for public debate on Romania’s Holocaust memory and is of significance for European public memory, as it proposes the film happening as a distinct and innovative practice of public engagement with history.