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Non-hyperbolic Disaster

While imaginations of disaster are intriguing, they can make it difficult to recognise disaster as something that lives amongst us. We are living in a time of persistent disaster, disaster is a condition of our society. The question then becomes whether we can consider disaster as a social construction, within a community, rather than entirely as an outside force or environmental phenomenon. This is where new forms of moving image may enter, to counter the traditional depictions of a future catastrophe by treating the environment as a character within, rather than a backdrop to, human spectacle. By avoiding disaster myths that can harmfully sway our reactions to catastrophe and the way we organise ourselves amidst it, these cinematic devices offer a more nuanced portrayal of disaster on screen.


I will be categorising these new portrayals of disaster in films under the very recently concocted genre: Non-hyperbolic disaster films. Dissimilar to the Blockbuster depiction of the disaster, Non-hyperbolic disaster films may have a fixed point of view, irregular shot lengths, a focus on stillness, and emphasis on non-human characters. The non-hyperbolic relates to disaster as a contemporary condition in society rather than a future armageddon scale event. It can be as banal as new infrastructure that obstructs a view, a leak in the ceiling or introducing an invasive plant to a garden. By re-imagining the genre of the disaster film and locating disaster themes in Non-hyperbolic disaster cinema, we can begin to free the narrative of disaster from futurology, spectacle, and singularity, as it serves little purpose to our contemporary catastrophic moment.


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