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Blinding Fire: Self-Immolation and Agnieszka Holland’s Critique of Domination and Oppression

Sadowska, Iwona. "Blinding Fire: Self-Immolation and Agnieszka Holland’s Critique of Domination and Oppression." Paper presented at the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America 71st annual meeting, June 14-15, 2013, Washington, DC.

The literature on the films of Agnieszka Holland often focuses on their historical contingency—her work as a critique of a particular regime that is no longer in existence. This paper explores how rendering such media as a commentary on a frozen, particularized memory inoculates the present from their power to critique ongoing systems of domination. Holland’s film, Hořící keř (Burning Bush) (2013), on the 1969 self-immolation of Czech protester Jan Palach is read as a critique of ongoing systems of domination. The paper compares Holland’s approach with Maciej Drygas’s Usłyszcie mój krzyk (Hear My Cry) (1991) on the 1968 self-immolation of Polish protester Ryszard Siwiec, which is also read as a critique of global systems of exploitation rather than as a protest against a fallen communist regime. The paper then shows how this protest continues today in self-immolations from the Arab Spring to Tibet to EU austerity.

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