Anna Elsner

June 19, 2024, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
IFILNOVA, NOVA University of Lisbon

Colégio Almada Negreiros/Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas – NOVA FCSH room SE1
Lisbon 1099-032

This event is available both online and in-person


Universidade Nova de Lisboa

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June's Film-Phil Lisbon Seminar (2023-2024) will be led by Anna Magdalena Elsner (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland) who will talk about “Documenting Dying or Capturing Care? The Afterlives of Palliative Care in French End-of-Life Documentaries”. The session will be held on June 19, 2024, at 15:00 PM (Lisbon time) Room CAN SE1 and Online.

ABSTRACT At the heart of this talk are three documentaries about end-of-life care in France: Les yeux ouverts (Frédéric Chaudier, 2010), Une maison au bord du monde (Pascal Cesaro, 2018) and Les Equilibristes (Perrine Michel, 2020). My aim is to explore how these documentary films engage with palliative care, the medical subspecialty which since Cicely Saunders’s pioneering work in the 1970s has become medicine’s main modality of dealing with death. Engaging with conceptual questions of the auto-documentary and ethnographies of care and vulnerability, I seek to untangle how the ethics of documentary filmmaking meets and collides with care ethics in the specific contexts of the portrayed institutions and their particular caring practices in the face of death. Highlighting how the films can be viewed as a commentary on societal engagements with dying, as well as oscillating between idealization and criticism of the philosophy of palliative, I explore the idea of an end-of-life documentary as an act of relational co-creation. As such, the practice of filmmaking partakes in Cicely Saunders’s totalizing view of pain and care, but also traces some of its limitations with regard to recent developments in political debates about end-of-life care in France.

BIO Anna Magdalena Elsner is Associate Professor of French Studies and Medical Humanities at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She is PI of the ERC project AssistedLab (, which engages with the aesthetics, laws, and ethics of assisted dying. Most recently she has co-edited Literature and Medicine (Cambridge University Press 2024) and The Proustian Mind (Routledge 2022).

Funded by the European Union (ERC, FILM AND DEATH, 101088956). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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June 19, 2024, 9:00am +01:00

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