Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Birgitta Frello, Roskilde University - The Danish Terrorist...

...or the construction of the journalist detective. Interplay between the voice of the presenter and the visual material on the television news on identity and belonging. Birgitta Frello shows a clip from DR1 Dokumentar which is entitled "Den danske terrorist" to show us examples of how primarily muslims are framed in Danish television media.

Frello has mainly been focusing on the verbal rhetoric but is increasingly taking visual representations into account as well. The voiceover who is commenting and explaining has a really important role. She argues that movement has a discursive function, that movement between different places can have connotations that are not evident at first glance. Physical proximity can represent metaphorical distance, such as the example of Nørrebro and Vesterbro.

The second clip shows a woman leaving Denmark to arrive in the Caribbean in search for her roots. We see images where her footprints in the sand are washed away by the waves. Her great great grandmother was a slave at one of the plantations and her search is framed as a search for truth and identity. The overcoming of distance in worldview can be overcome by showing the movement over physical distance. Bridging the distance becomes bridging the difference.

In the third clip we return to the documentary on the Danish terrorist in which a journalist, the actual protagonist, lets the spectator follow his subjective gaze on a walk around in a suburb of Copenhagen. This is the place where a young man, born in Denmark and given a 12-year sentence for his actions in Bosnia, grew up. His parents still live there. Another example is taken from a suburb of Odense where another young man has been convicted of planning an act of terror in Denmark. There is a tension in the rhetoric of the program. On the one hand it shows the journalist trying to reach out to and understand these young men, as portraying themselves a "one of us," on the other hand they are also seen as difficult to understand, as alien to us, as "the other." The difference is evident both verbally and visually. In various comments Danish politicians stress Danishness and subsequently question the Danishness of the young men. There is a difference to overcome or bridge. Frello stresses that one main function of the documentary is othering.

Movement is in these cases a narrative device that indicates process, distancing, bridging. The journalist detective acts as the middle man, as the neutral observer and at the same time the glue that keeps these people/stories together and helps the audience to make sense of the material.

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