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Über dieses Buch

This collection brings together international experts on the cinema of migration and diaspora in postcolonial and postnational Europe. It offers a comprehensive theoretical and analytical discussion of a highly productive creative sector and documents the spectrum of this area of exploration in European, transnational and World Cinema studies.




Transnational mobility and migration belong to ‘the key forces of social transformation in the contemporary world’ (Castles 2002: 1144). Population movements during the second half of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century have resulted in the formation of new diasporas (van Hear 1998, Cohen 2008), different in a number of ways from those of earlier decades and centuries, typically associated with forced displacement, persecution and enslavement. While migration, dispersal and resettlement are still charged with anxiety for migrating as well as receiving communities, the concept of diaspora has been significantly revalorised over recent decades. This is partly due to an almost inflationary use of the term, which is frequently loosely applied to expatriates, political refugees, alien residents and ethnic minorities (Cohen 2008: 1), and partly to technological advances in communications and transport, which have made exchanges between enduring transnational networks considerably faster and easier. Today’s diasporic communities are celebrated as ‘paragons of the transnational moment’ (Braziel and Mannur 2003: 6) and a diasporic subject position has become an asset rather than a liability, as can be seen with US President Barack Obama and other public figures who openly acknowledge and promote their ethnic ‘roots/routes’ or ‘dual heritage’.
Daniela Berghahn, Claudia Sternberg

1. Locating Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and diasporic cinema in contemporary Europe is situated at the interface of the discursive fields of European cinema and World Cinema. The films discussed in this volume play a crucial role in the gradual conflation of these two critical paradigms and are indicative of the World Cinema turn which film studies has witnessed since the late 1980s.1 In this chapter we attempt to demarcate some of the conceptual boundaries of migrant and diasporic cinema in relation to overlapping terminologies and frameworks to be found in a growing corpus of related critical writing. We examine their heuristic value and socio-political implications by drawing attention to the inflections and subtexts of social categorisation (Migrantenkino), racial or ethno-national emphases (cinéma du métissage, black and Asian British film, French beur cinema), linguistic or spatial concepts (accented cinema, banlieue films, cinema of double occupancy) and transnational approaches (Third Cinema, black film, cinema of the South Asian diaspora). Representational strategies and aesthetic choices as well as questions of authorship and ownership lie at the heart of our exploration of the ways in which this new type of European cinema has been understood and named.
Daniela Berghahn, Claudia Sternberg

2. Migration and Cinematic Process in Post-Cold War Europe

The year 1989 remains of definitive importance for the recent migratory and diasporic dynamics of Europe at large, and for European migrant and diasporic cinema in particular. Many of the developments that define today’s Europe were, directly or indirectly, triggered by the events of that year, including the German reunification, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the wars of Yugoslavia’s succession in the 1990s and the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, which saw the admission of a range of former communist countries.
Dina Iordanova

3. State and Other Funding for Migrant, Diasporic and World Cinemas in Europe

State funding policies for the arts have always been controversial. So are dichotomies applied to cinema (i.e. mainstream/marginal, Hollywood/independent, popular/auteur, national/non-national, European/non-European, etc.), however useful they may be to policymakers (by serving political and cultural goals as well as the needs of the local industry) and to producers and distributors in identifying niche markets. Today, categories have almost been made redundant by globalisation trends brought about by advanced technologies and the emergence of ‘a multiplicity of capitalisms’ (Halle 2002: 21). Yet state funding continues to be crucial to the existence of world cinemas.
Anne Jäckel

4. Nostalgic Journeys in Post-Soviet Cinema: Towards a Lost Home?

The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov offers possibly the best introduction to a discussion of nostalgia and its meaning in Russian culture. His major plays The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1899), The Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904) deal with the melancholy of the characters as they face the passing of one age and the arrival of new times; they long for the past and fear the future, lapsing into inertia in the present. The longing articulated by Masha, Irina and Olga in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters is a longing for another place, Moscow, where they were born and raised; but the location Moscow encapsulates the longing to return to a happy past, to their childhood when father and mother were still alive and they led a more interesting life than their present, dull existence in provincial Russia. The sisters are nostalgic about the past, associating it with a place that exists only in their imagination. The longing for another time rather than another place explains the sisters’ lack of action in the present: they have moved, or ‘migrated’, from the capital to the provinces, and a return is impossible because of the temporal rather than the geographical distance. As the cultural historian Svetlana Boym has argued:
Nostalgia (from nostos – return home, and algia – longing) is a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed. Nostalgia is a sentiment of loss and displacement, but it is also a romance with one’s own fantasy. […] nostalgia is a longing for a place, but actually it is a yearning for a different time – the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams. In a broader sense, nostalgia is rebellion against the modern idea of time, the time of history and progress. The nostalgic desires to obliterate history and turn it into private or collective mythology, to revisit time like space, refusing to surrender to the irreversibility of time that plagues the human condition. (2001: xiii, xv)
Birgit Beumers

5. Transculturation in German and Spanish Migrant and Diasporic Cinema: On Constrained Spaces and Minor Intimacies in Princesses and A Little Bit of Freedom

German film critic Georg Seeßlen (2000) claims that, since the 1990s, European films about migration and multiculturalism have adopted a new perspective. In Germany, he notes, directors such as Fatih Akin, Thomas Arslan, Kutluğ Ataman, Ayşe Polat and Yüksel Yavuz have developed a ‘cinema of two cultures’, emphasising the ordinariness of multiculturalism and hybrid identities. Seeßlen interprets Homi Bhabha’s notion of ‘hybridity’ as ‘cultural mixing’ and ‘living between cultures’. For Bhabha, however, hybridity is not just about the fusion of cultures. Rather it represents continuous and discontinuous processes of identification, dis-identification and re-identification, a ‘Third Space’, which questions and transforms national identity (Bhabha 1994: 38). This perspective resonates with the concept of transculturation developed by Cuban theorist Fernando Ortiz. Unlike Bhabha, Ortiz foregrounds the material conditions which produce and influence cultural contact and transformation; he concentrates on the habitation of ‘social spaces where people are coerced to labor and live’ (Coronil 1995: xv).
Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez

6. The Dark Side of Hybridity: Contemporary Black and Asian British Cinema

Critical debate largely supports the idea that, compared with other parts of Europe, Britain has produced some of the most culturally dynamic and pleasurable examples of hybridity. ‘Hybridity’ commonly refers to ‘the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonisation’ (Ashcroft et al. 2003: 118) and, in post-colonial work led by thinkers such as Homi Bhabha (1994), is foregrounded as resulting in fluid and transient forms of cultural mixing or syncretism. With regard to migrant and diasporic cinema as an example of ‘hybrid’ cultural production, it is Britain that has set an important benchmark for the rest of Europe. Black and Asian British film has been at the forefront of this: internationally recognised productions set in multicultural Britain, narrated primarily through social realist frameworks, stand out as a success story in European cinema. These films deal with the experiences of Britain’s black and Asian diasporas and are mainly made by African and African Caribbean (referred to here as ‘black’) and South Asian film-makers, many of them British-born. Our understanding of these ‘new transcultural forms’ is dependent on locating them within the broader social and political contexts within which they have been produced. In fact, historically, these films have principally developed against a background of political antagonism and cultural conflict.
Sarita Malik

7. Body Matters: Immigrants in Recent Spanish, Italian and Greek Cinemas

The increased visibility of migrant groups and individuals is currently perhaps the most striking feature common to Spanish, Italian and Greek cinemas. This development arose in the early 1990s and has since led to a sizeable body of so-called immigrant films in each country. Shared agendas in these films, as well as in journalistic and academic debates, legitimate the kind of wide-angle focus adopted here, particularly at a time when transnational dynamics demand more than ever a discussion of cinema – and, perhaps especially, European cinema – liberated from the straitjacket of national boundaries.
Isabel Santaolalla

8. Gendering Diaspora: The Work of Diasporic Women Film-Makers in Western Europe

A number of recent Western European films about border crossings have featured the trajectories of contemporary migrant women in Europe, drawing attention to the increased feminisation of migration patterns and new types of female migrants in the era of globalisation and transnational capitalism (see Castles and Miller 2003). These films – which include Dirty Pretty Things (UK 2002, dir. Stephen Frears), Lilja 4-ever (Sweden/Denmark 2002, dir. Lukas Moodysson), Rezervni deli/Spare Parts (Slovenia 2003, dir. Damjan Kozole), Transe (Portugal 2006, dir. Teresa Villaverde) and Ghosts (UK 2006, dir. Nick Broomfield) – tend to highlight the ways in which migrant women may be the victims of such cross-border traffic, focusing on their vulnerability as exploited and often illegal workers or their trafficking as prostitutes. As Ljiljana Coklin points out, such films
challenge the assumed notion of female liberation (the linear narrative transition from ‘oppression’ to ‘emancipation’) […]: women’s economic independence and geographic movement remain controlled by corporate interests and the needs and desires of male ‘guides’ and ‘protectors’. (2006: unpaginated)
Carrie Tarr

9. Queering the Diaspora

In a recent overview of queer migration scholarship, Eithne Luibhéid makes the crucial point that queer migration is at once a set of grounded processes involving heterogeneous social groups and a series of theoretical and social justice questions that implicate – but also extend beyond – migration and sexuality strictly defined, refusing in the process to attach to bodies in any strictly identarian manner (2008: 169).1 Yet queer migration scholarship is also directly informed by an understanding of sexuality as constructed within multiple and conflicting relations of power, including race, ethnicity, gender, class, citizenship and geopolitical location. For this reason it engages with histories and subjects that reflect both alienation from white gay communities and histories of multiple diasporas forged through colonialism and transnational capitalism. Much of the expanding and pioneering body of scholarship reveals that queer migrants comprise essentially ‘impossible’ subjects with unrepresentable histories that exceed existing categories, thereby requiring scholars to foreground and challenge regimes of power and knowledge that generate structures of impossibility where particular groups are concerned, and to re-examine how individuals negotiate them. Overlapping, palimpsestic histories of imperialism, invasion, investment, trade and political influence create ‘bridges for migration’ between and among nation states (Luibhéid 2008: 173).2
James S. Williams

10. Sound Bridges: Transnational Mobility as Ironic Melodrama

In a memorable scene in his cross-Balkan road movie Im Juli/In July (Germany 2000), the director Fatih Akin cast himself as a gum-chewing, chess-playing customs officer at a makeshift Hungarian-Romanian border, who would not let his protagonist Daniel pass the toll-gate: ‘No passport, no Romania!’ At this moment, Daniel’s lost travel companion Juli surprisingly appears out of a little hut on the other side of the border. Their unexpected reunion culminates in a strange rite of passage. The border guard/director conducts a wedding ceremony at gunpoint, declares them married, and opens the toll-bar — not before acquiring Daniel’s vehicle as a ‘present’. In this absurdist enactment of border control, the director’s cameo appearance and mockery of his own role introduce a moment of authorial self-irony, implying a tongue-in-cheek complicity with an initiated audience. Such ironic moments have become a trademark for Hamburg-based Turkish German director Fatih Akin’s film style. For his award-winning film Gegen die Wand/ Head-On (Germany 2004), he also acted in a short cameo scene as a drug dealer in Istanbul, but he ultimately decided to cut the scene,2 as he wanted to avoid replicating the brief role that he had previously played in his debut feature Kurz und schmerzlos/Short Sharp Shock (Germany 1998). In the following, I will argue that dramatic irony in Head-On operates on a different level than authorial self-insertion.
Deniz Göktürk

11. Coming of Age in ‘the Hood’: The Diasporic Youth Film and Questions of Genre

Since the mid-1980s there has been a surge of European films featuring the identity struggles of adolescents from ethnic minority backgrounds. They include British Asian films such as East Is East (1999, dir. Damien O’Donnell), Bend It Like Beckham (2002, dir. Gurinder Chadha), Anita and Me (2002, dir. Metin Hüseyin) and black British films such as Rage (1999, dir. Newton Aduaka), Bullet Boy (2004, dir. Saul Dibb) and the early precursor Pressure (1976, dir. Horace Ové). Turkish German features are Yasemin (1988, dir. Hark Bohm), Geschwister – Kardesler/Brothers and Sisters – Kardesler (1997, dir. Yüksel Yavuz), Aprilkinder/April Children (1998, dir. Yüksel Yavuz), Auslandstournee/Tour Abroad (2000, dir. Ayşe Polat) and Karamuk (2004, dir. Sülbiye Günar). Maghrebi French films include Le Thé au harem d’Archimède/Tea in the Harem (1985, dir. Mehdi Charef), Le Gone du chaâba/The Kid from the Chaaba (1998, dir. Christophe Ruggia), Le Ciel, les oiseaux…et ta mère!/Boys on the Beach (1998, dir. Djamel Bensalah), La Squale/The Squale (2000, dir. Fabrice Genestal), Samia (2000, dir. Philippe Faucon), L’Esquive/Games of Love and Chance (2003, dir. Abdellatif Kechiche) and Le Grand voyage (2004, dir. Ismaël Ferroukhi). Considering a number of these films in more detail, this chapter applies a quintessentially American critical paradigm, genre criticism, to European films about diasporic youth and asks to what extent these films conform to the generic conventions of the ‘teenpic’ or ‘youth film’.
Daniela Berghahn

12. Migration, Diaspora and Metacinematic Reflection

This chapter is an investigation into the representation of cinema-going and the use of cinema-related elements in narrative films about migration and/or diasporas in Europe. It has been prompted by the prominence of references to films, film-making and the cinema in a number of European productions created by both migrant and non-migrant, diasporic and non- diasporic writers and directors. Using a sample of such productions from Britain, France, Germany and Spain, I aim to show that, while cinema scenes, citations, intertextual allusions and other metacinematic reflections can be read as postmodern strategies of pastiche and media reflexivity, they also – and perhaps more specifically – draw attention to the importance of film in the migratory and diasporic experience and its central role in and for discourses of ethnicity, ‘race’, belonging and displacement in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. My argument is that metacinematic elements address historical and metaphorical connections between migration and the moving image; they furthermore help to constitute migrant or diasporic subjects not only as characters in but also as spectators, performers and makers of films, thus defying objectification and foregrounding agency through metareflexive practice.
Claudia Sternberg

Future Imperfect: Some Onward Perspectives on Migrant and Diasporic Film Practice

Film criticism generally bases itself on the finished film as fait accompli, as if the film, once made, were self-evidently a necessary and indispensable part of the cinemalandscape. But this is not the experience of the filmmaker, whose creative arc will be strewn with rejected scripts, false starts, failed finance and aborted shoots. This may apply doubly to the migrant or diasporic film-maker facing additional challenges of access or entitlement. The most passionate personal statement may be the hardest to finance and the best but thorniest screenplay may never be shot.
Gareth Jones


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