Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe



Language: German

Guest-worker cinema

The 'Gastarbeiterkino' 'has its roots in two areas of cultural practice. Firstly, what gradually took on the character of a 'sub-state cinema' emerged initially as aprt of a 'politically critical national cinema', subsumed under a broader thematic category within the New German Cinema of the 1970s, namely films which addressed themselves to the plight of so-called 'guest-workers' (Gastarbeiter). This initial focus on the inhuman living and working conditions of foreign labourers is typified by Lowest of the Low (Ganz unten), the fly-on-the-wall documentary that was released in 1986 as a companion to Günter Wallraff's record-breaking literary reportage of the same title. ...Lowest of the Low presented a patronizing and stereotyped portrait of a Turk as uneducated, unskilled, naive and pitiful. [...] Secondly, [...] the development of Turkish-German cinema must also be seen against the background of various initiatives to promote migrant culture in Germany. In the early 1980s organizations were founded to co-ordinate the create efforts of Germany's migrant population, and to facilitate what was expressly and affirmatively designated as 'guest-worker literature'. Such writing laid claim to counter-cultural status, hence the insistence on using the official term for migrant labour, 'guest-worker' (just as 'many Asian, African and Caribbean people in Britain chose to adopt the term "Black" as an umbrella political category'). Conceived as an instrument of 'cultural resistance', this was to be above all a 'literature of the affected' [Betroffenheitsliteratur] which consequently gave priority to the authenticity of personal experience.


Rob Burns,'Turkish-German cinema: from cultural resistance to transnational cinema?, in: David Clarke (ed.), German Cinema Since Unification, London and New York: Continuum, 2006, pp. 127-150 [here pp. 127-128]

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 29 Jan 2008 • Comment on this term

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