An essential historical lesson

RACISM: Raoul Peck unravels the history of colonisation, genocide, imperialism, and white supremacy in his 4-part docuseries.
Director: Raoul Peck
Producer: HBO
Country: USA

We knew most of this before. «There is no document of civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism», wrote the philosopher Walter Benjamin in 1940, shortly before his death. But writer and director Raoul Peck, in his breathtaking Exterminate All the Brutes hybrid docu-series makes it clear, in an utterly convincing way, that we still need to grasp the actual meaning and scope of this fact.

Peck is known for his disruptions of formal and artistic film conventions and this series excels by its strikingly innovative approach to historic documentary, but Exterminate All the Brutes is first and foremost an essential lesson in history. Just one example: Benjamin died as he was trying to escape the killing machine designed to facilitate Hitler’s imperial ambitions. Peck shows that the model for this was developed and perfected long before the Nazis and is still being used today. In the words of Peck whose broken, dark voice will make the painful truths he reveals stay with you long after the closing titles, «There is this one short simple sentence that sums up the history of the western world, exterminate all the brutes».

Exterminate All the Brutes, a limited series by Raoul Peck
Exterminate All the Brutes, a limited series by Raoul Peck

New forms

The word hybrid is actually too loose for Peck’s work, as he does not simply merge the two, documentary and . . .

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Melita Zajc
Our regular contributor. Zajc is a media anthropologist and philosopher.
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