Moving Pictures, Migrating Identities

Moving Pictures, Migrating Identities

Moving Pictures, Migrating Identities

Moving Pictures, Migrating Identities


In recent decades the experiences and political struggles of immigrants, exiles, and sojourners have inspired some of the most provocative feature films and documentaries in world cinema. These have sparked theoretical debates about cultural identity, place, and representation in the media.

The thirteen essays in this anthology contribute to a growing interest in the emerging international genre of exile and diaspora films, treating a variety of motion pictures from Europe and the United States in their national and transnational contexts.

These essays examine how contemporary cinema--both fiction feature film and documentary--has imagined the experience of migration and displacement, the struggle for citizenship and cultural belonging, and the encounter and negotiation of different cultures and identities. The authors discuss the ways cinema explores the many contradictions of exile and diaspora--the complicated meanings of home, the exile's nostalgia for origins, the hopes and tragedies of border crossings, the difficulties of belonging to a strange society and being a stranger, and the conundrums of gender for the migrant, especially women's conciliation of different social roles and cultural expectations.

Included are discussions of such well known films as The Crying Game, Lamerica, Journey of Hope, Exotica, Chocolat, Lone Star, and Flying Down to Rio, as well as smaller productions by diasporic or immigrant filmmakers who deserve critical attention, including Seyhan Derin's I'm My Mother's Daughter, Mina Shum's Double Happiness, and Yanina Benguigui's Immigrant Memories: Maghrebi Heritage.

Encompassing different models of intercultural theory, this collection draws on the fields of anthropology, political economy, production and reception studies, feminism, travel writing, and postcolonial criticism and captures the complex, diverse, and continually changing body of diaspora film and its intertextual connections.

Eva Rueschmann is an assistant professor of cultural studies at Hampshire College, the author of Sisters on the Screen: Siblings in Contemporary Cinema, and a contributor to two anthologies, International Women's Writing: New Landscapes of Identities and The Significance of Sibling Relationships in Literature.


Migrants must, of necessity, make a new imaginative
relationship with the world, because of the loss of familiar
habitats. And for the plural, metropolitan result of such
imaginings, the cinema, in which peculiar fusions have
always been legitimate … may well be the ideal location.

—from Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands 125

The story of mass migrations (voluntary and forced) is
hardly a new feature of human history. But when it is
juxtaposed with the rapid flow of mass-mediated images,
scripts and sensation, we have a new order of instability
in the production of modern subjectivities…. These
[moving images] create diasporic public spheres,
phenomena that confound theories that depend on the
continued saliance of the nation-state as the key arbiter
of important social changes.

—from Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large 4

Opening Remarks

This volume of essays contributes to a relatively new and increasingly significant subject in cinema criticism: exile, diaspora and immigration in film from around the globe. Exile and diaspora film criticism calls attention to a truly international genre of contemporary cinema, treating a wide range of films that address, in a variety of national and transnational contexts, issues and questions generated by a ‘world on the move.’ Indeed, the films represented in this study, and the critical and analytical thought brought to bear on them by the anthology's contributors, could hardly be more pertinent . . .

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