This paper looks at the convergence of disaster and cinema, specifically with regard to framing of catastrophe on screen. It returns to the events of March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami initiated a nuclear crisis in Japan, whose effects were felt globally. Aside from the discrete nature of this event, “3/11,” as it has come to be called in Japan, evoked memories of a prior atomic crisis, namely the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, as well as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil. A particular focus of this talk is the way in which deferrals in time produce in addition a sense of displacement, or in the case of cinema, a replacement of the event in ways that render every event irreducible virtual. The presentation will focus on key documentaries and fictional narratives that return to the site of “3/11,” but also to a spatio-temporal locus that calls into question the beginnings and ends of disaster.
Akira Mizuta Lippit teaches literature and film at the University of Southern California. He is the author of four books, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife (2000); Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) (2005); Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video (2012); and most recently, Cinema without Reflection: Jacques Derrida’s Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift (2016). He is presently completing books on contemporary Japanese cinema and on David Lynch’s baroque alphabetics.