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Author: Veronica Wain

Beyond the analytical and scientific debate surrounding empathy, its origins and its possibilities, is the world of creativity and imagination where idealists, philosophers and artists endeavour to express their story or another’s. The intent to inspire transcendence from the world as it is to a world where difference and culture are honoured and greed and violence subside, are recurring themes in the world of filmmaking. Lofty as these ideals may seem, the creative impulse, since first realised, has recognised conflict, inspired reflection upon the pain of the past and sought to mitigate the devastation wrought by war and aggression, whether it be person against person or nation against nation. This chapter is a broad stroke examination of two recent films, The Water Diviner and Unbroken, as an invitation to further explore some of my personal reflections in greater depth. The ways in which the filmmakers have approached their craft in order to address war and conflict within the works, to create connection and inspire empathy, or not, with their audiences, is discussed. Whilst the discussion draws upon film theory, the empathic impulse, the directors’ drive to involve an audience in an empathic experience and inspire change, is at the heart of the chapter as I ponder how we might collectively embark upon creating an enlightened ‘propaganda of peace’. With this foundation, possibilities for the transmission of the story of the ‘other’ from script to screen to audience may be seen as first steps towards that seemingly ever-elusive state of peace in our world. In closing the discussion, the efficacy of the traditional feature film as a mechanism for the evocation of empathy is compared to emergent technological advances in sharing stories on screens.

In: Promises, Pedagogy and Pitfalls: Empathy’s Potential for Healing and Harm
In: Exploring Empathy
In: Promises, Pedagogy and Pitfalls: Empathy’s Potential for Healing and Harm
This volume was first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2016.

The nature of empathy, its potential for healing and harm, and its potency to effect change for good or ill at inter-personal, ecological and global levels, are key themes represented in this interdisiciplinary volume.

Section one looks at physiological and philosophical roots of empathy, exploring neurological factors as well as the question of human selfhood in relation to the ‘other’.

The notion of ‘wrong’ empathy then comes under scrutiny, where the potential for empathic responses to upturn moral codes is examined. This leads into a focus on the written word, with exploration of written text and the act of writing on empathic responses.

The scope is widened in the final sections to focus on ways to teach empathy and potential global effects of expanded empathic awareness. Amidst critical challenges facing humanity today, it poses the crucial question: how can we find more peaceful communion with those whose differences we fear.