There Is Harm Even In Harmony

On why documentaries so often are about human vulnerability, harm, and suffering


  • Shaheen Dill-Riaz
  • Pradeep Chakkarath



documentary films, violence, aggression, interdisciplinary research, victims experience


In the following pages, we — a documentary filmmaker and a cultural psychologist — share some of the thoughts that we have been concerned with since we started thinking together about some issues that are as much on the minds of the filmmaker as they are on the minds of the scientist. On the one hand, this is our way of encouraging scientific research on the harmful aspects of life to open up to alternative perspectives, methods of exploration, data collection, and documentation that are often considered vague and blurry or even unscientific; this is due to established, almost scholastic demarcations that make it difficult to gain broader insights into complex and interrelated phenomena such as violence, aggression, repression, malice, fear, despair, etc. In addition, we would like to make sensitive to the fact that those phenomena that usually interest conventional research on violence the most — for example wars, genocides, mass killings, rampages, and rapes — have their breeding grounds which are still waiting to be explored and conceptualised more thoroughly. An exchange between social scientists and documentary filmmakers serves as just one of many examples of how a more thorough exploration of our fragile existence could benefit from interdisciplinary and interprofessional cooperation and resulting insights.