Film professor publishes article about Zapruder film, a video of the JFK assassination, in Slovenian journal
Fabrizio Cilento, an assistant professor of film and digital media at Messiah, says he has always been fascinated by technology’s impact on the history of visual culture. This long-time interest is detailed in his recent article about the film footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), which was published by the Slovenian journal, Teorija in praksa.
The only known recording of the JFK assassination was made possible because of the advent of 8mm home-movie cameras. Abraham Zapruder, a bystander who had planned to film Kennedy’s motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, inadvertently captured the historical tragedy on his personal movie camera.
“Because of its low technical quality and being mediated by Zapruder’s limited perspective, the video’s status as historical evidence was ambiguous,” Fabrizio said. “The Zapruder video’s promise, which generates the psychological desire to replay and analyze it, is to reveal what will remain beyond it: the motivations and the causes of the action it depicts.”
Fabrizio’s paper, “The Ontology of Replay: The Zapruder Video and American Conspiracy Films,” is a visual analysis of the assassination video, particularly focused on how replaying it can provide a different way of re-constructing past events.
“The article explores how the communicational experience of Kennedy’s assassination created an epistemological break, an unprecedented interrogation about the ability of the image to reveal the deep nature of events,” Fabrizio explained.
The research process for the article was a rigorous one. Fabrizio spent time tracing the history, legacy and circulation of the images of the assassination. He also interviewed Albert Maysles, often referred to as the “dean of American documentary,” who provided several insights to working theories.
Teorija in praksa, a journal founded by the faculty of social sciences at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, published Cilento’s article as one of five features for its special issue titled “JFK Assassination: The Rise and Fall of Camelot.”
Distilling such a monumental time in U.S. history into one article was a challenge. To meet the journal’s story length requirements, he cut several pages of his original piece. “Overall, I think it required me to really dig down to the essence of the argument,” said Cilento, “which revealed to be a useful exercise.”
-Rose Talbot ’16
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