The Historical Musical – Memory as Phantasy

In recent decades, the genres of history have expanded to embrace a multitude of narrative possibilities that embrace the technological advances of the modern age.  However, there is still a tension between the practice of academic ‘history’ and concepts such as ‘genre’ and notions of ‘creation’: a collision of the scientific, quantifiable past with the creative, imaginative and ephemeral. This is particularly an issue when looking at the past on film – either the small or big screen. This paper is a case study which reveals some of the tensions still apparent within ‘created’ and ‘creative’ historical representation: the Australian TV program Changi (Australia, 2001). An audiovisual mini-series representation of POW prisoner of war narratives that controversially melded historical docudrama and musical – I use this example to explore the dichotomy of fact and fiction in filmic representations of the past and the continuation of a number of underlying concerns regarding ownership of the past and the ‘problems’ with images.

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