LONDON (The Observer)–A top museum has run into controversy after commissioning an exhibit that is too harrowing to be seen by children.
For the first time in Britain an age limit has been imposed for an exhibit–with under–16s being barred from viewing a specially commissioned film on genocide at the Imperial War Museum. The film–entitled Crimes Against Humanity–contains graphic images of massacres across the globe.
It also courts controversy by including two hotly disputed events–the massacre of 1.5 million Armenia’s by Turkey in 1915 and the slaughter of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda.
The film is part of a wider exhibition on genocide and violence that opens in December. The exhibition is the museum’s latest effort to shake off its image as an outdated display case to celebrate the ‘boys’ toys’ of war–tanks–aircraft and big guns.
Narrated by well-known commentators–the film contains some deeply disturbing images from Nazi Germany–Bosnia–Cambodia–Armenia and Rwanda–much of which has never been screened on television.
In one piece of footage from Rwanda–only ever shown before on the BBC after the 9p.m. watershed–a man can be seen in the distance standing above a kneeling group of three figures. He suddenly swipes with what is clearly a machete and one figure falls–another swipe another topples. For the viewer it is a slow-dawning horror of what is taking place.
Later the camera focuses on the face of a young Rwandan woman as she shamefully confesses to having beaten another woman to death with a club.
As well as shocking its viewers–the film pulls few political punches. Turkish diplomats in London–who deny the claim of genocide against Armenia’s – are considering an official protest over the film.
A museum spokeswoman’said: "The film will be controversial as it is a sensitive subject to tackle but I think it is a powerful and thought-provoking film and as a museum of war we have to tackle the gravest of issues."
The United Nations and the US are also criticized by several of the film’s commentators–which include war correspondents’ Fergal Keane and Martin Bell–human rights activist Michael Ignatieff and African affairs expert Alison des Forges.
"The UN is a club of states. The ultimate irony was that while the Rwandan genocide was ongoing–Rwanda was one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council and no one questioned that," Des Forges said.
Keane told The Observer that–while many of the commen’s were controversial–they were accurate. "The Clinton White House worked extremely hard to make sure Rwanda wasn’t called genocide because that would have triggered an obligation on the part of the UN to intervene," he said.