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.
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