Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe


Diasporic cinema

Language: English

Diasporic cinema refers to the film making of any dispersed community that lives away from its country of origin. It is a broad and relatively rarely used term, which includes a diverse spectrum of film making communities, such as German emigrés to Hollywood in the 1930s, beur cinema in France, contemporary Turkish-German cinema and the cinema of the Jewish diaspora. In the context of this project we are, however, interested in diasporic film making in contemporary Europe, more specifically in imperial/colonial  and cultural/hybrid diasporas. 

In his study An Accented Cinema, Hamid Naficy suggests the distinction between 'exilic', 'diasporic' and 'postcolonial ethnic identity filmmakers'. While exilic cinema reflects an individulaistic experience, diasporic cinema necessarily reflects a collective experience. '[...] exilic cinema is dominated by its focus on the there and then in the homeland, diasporic cinema by its vertical relationship to the homeland and by its lateral relationship to the diaspora communities and experiences, and postcolonial ethnic and identity cinema by the exigencies of life here and now in the country in which the filmmakers reside. As a result of their focus on the here and now, ethnic identity films tend to deal with what Werner Sollors has characterized as "the central drama in American culture", which emerges from the conflict between descent relations, emphasizing bloodline and ethnicity, and consent relations, stressing self-made contractual affiliations.' (Naficy 2001: 15) 

In the context of this project we understand migrant and diasporic cinema as the cinema created by filmmakers with a memory of postmemory of a migratory experience (cf. entry 'migrant and diasporic filmmakers'), however, the term migrant and diasporic cinema also includes those films whihc are created in the multiple processes of border border crossings by 'native' filmmakers in the 'diaspora space' (Brah 1996). However, it needs to be stressed that, without the empowerment of migrant and diasporic populations, frequently ethnic minorities, without the fight of diasporic filmmakers for access to the means of production and control over representation and without their perspective and transcultural influences, the films made by representatives of the so-called dominant cultures—in Europe and eslewhere—would not be the way they are today. Migrant and diasporic filmmakers have been and continue to be a major inspiration and corrective and while we have to combat the sociological fallacy and read these films as representations, not as mirrors of 'reality', we should not disconnect them from cultural politics and societal critique. 

[We welcome your comments on this 'definition in progress' and invite you to submit them to the Discussion Forums on this website. However, please do not quote this 'definition in progress' without first seeking the permission of the authors by contacting the Project Admin first.]

Cf. also Migrant and diasporic filmmakers


Daniela Berghahn and Claudia Sternberg, 'Locating migrant and diasporic film in contemporary Europe', in: Daniela Berghahn and Claudia Sternberg (eds.), European Cinema in Motion: Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe, London: Wallflower Press, forthcoming 2009. 

Hamid Naficy (2001), An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 10 Oct 2006 • Comment on this term

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