Refugees and Migrants in Contemporary Film, Art and Media
Latest Publications





Published By Amsterdam University Press

9789048554584, 9789463724166

Eileen Rositzka

Loosely based on a 1944 novel by German writer Anna Seghers and set in present-day France, Christian Petzold’s Transit is a story of fateful migration, in which conflicting agencies and shifting identities are translated into an aesthetic principle. Its fluctuating interrelations between images, texts, and temporalities transform the film into an ultimate “non-place,” which, except for a few hints at fascism and a refugee crisis, provides no explanation or overview of its political implications. Alongside the characters, spectators are thrown into a world defined by fragile image spaces and zones of exclusion, always haunted by fragments of the past and glimpses of an uncertain future.

Erik Marshall

Virtual reality (VR) offers an exciting new way to represent crises of forced migration. Like many new technologies, though, VR risks exacerbating the challenges that exist in more traditional modes of representation, particularly that of documentary film. This essay examines two VR projects that depict migrants attempting to cross borders: Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) by Alejandro González Iñárritu and We Wait, co-produced by Aardman Studios and the BBC. The two projects differ in technique but share many characteristics as they attempt to encourage empathy in the viewer through the use of immersive technology.

Deniz Göktürk

This essay opens up a new perspective on migration through the lens of waste, tracing the effects of war, border securitization, and global capitalism on a local scale. The analysis of Afganistanbul (2018), a short documentary produced by a team at Kadir Has University in Istanbul where the book in hand originated, captures the predicament of undocumented waste workers in the city who lack the means to continue their journey to Europe or return to their homeland, while resources and revenue in the global recycling business circulate freely. Following the film in its close-up on a specific site of life and labour, this essay teases out competing aspirations among local and migrant city dwellers, arguing that representations of migrant experiences are prone to the temptation of poverty porn and calling on spectators to consider their own implication in interlocking systems of inequity.

Selmin Kara

Joshua Bonnetta and J. P. Sniadecki’s El Mar La Mar (2017), an experimental documentary on the migrant trail across the Mexico–US border, features a striking audiovisual assemblage that gives equal weight to sights and sounds, allowing the viewer to contemplate the history of not only the cinema of migration but also the various traditions that engage with field recordings. This chapter investigates the ways in which the film challenges our expectations of what a migrant geography feels like, with special attention to the film’s soundtrack, from its contact mic-enabled drone sounds to disembodied audio testimonials, and the broader acoustic ecology that the film construes (influenced by musique concrète and post-Pierre Schaeffer anecdotal sound, in the work of Luc Ferrari).

Nagehan Uskan

Natives of the New World is a short documentary film shot on cell phones by the Kino Mosaik collective, which was founded in Lesbos Island, Greece, in 2018. The migrants who were members of the collective tried to transform the period when they were stuck in Lesbos waiting for the decision on their asylum applications into a constitutive process. Kino Mosaik’s main goal was to oppose the passive, apolitical, and victimized migrant image created by mainstream media and many artistic representations. The collective thought that this was possible only from their perspective, and they made this film as an action against stereotypical representational systems. In the short documentary, not only are the difficult conditions that migrants have to deal with made visible but also the forms of collective resistance they have developed against them. This article will analyse Natives of The New World by comparing it with the representational tools it opposes.

Nevena Daković

The aim of this paper is to map manifold notions of migrant cinema and its history, in other words, film narratives about migrations from, across, and to the Balkans. The analysis looks at broader Balkan cinema that features as the context for focusing the changes of the migration pattern from and to Belgrade. The paper takes Practical Guide to Belgrade with Singing and Crying (Praktičan vodič kroz Beograd sa pevanjem i plakanjem, Bojan Vuletić, 2011) as its case study to show the recent reversal of migrant narratives in which the Balkans are the desired destination, in itself an exception to the rule. The analyses are based on the appropriated definition of migrant cinema and complemented with notions of inner exile and accented cinema.

Iva Leković

This paper analyses recent works by Aida Begić and Želimir Žilnik— Never Leave Me (2017) and The Most Beautiful Country in the World (2018), respectively. These works narrate the evolving lives of migrants on the borderlines of the Balkan Anatolian region. Migrants’ aspiration to reach their “dream land” is interpreted as a journey towards unfolding “the virtual realities of consciousness” of both actors and directors. The reflections of both Begić and Žilnik on the issue of migration, filmed in an accented style, highlight their own post-Yugoslav perspectives, which allows us to analyse the two films in context of “return to homeland”—a concept present both in Naficy’s theories of an accented cinema and in Boym’s notion of “reflective nostalgia.”

Deniz Bayrakdar

In this essay, I explore the land-, sea-, and cityscapes in six films (five Turkish and one Turkish German)—Bliss, The Wound, Rıza, Broken Mussels, The Guest, and Seaburners—and their use of place and non-place. Hamid Naficy’s concept of transitional space and Marc Augé’s notion of non-place, based on Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, will be the basis of the theoretical discussion. I focus on what I see as a major shift in the representation of the migrant experience in the Turkish cinema of the early and late 2000s, a shift from the land- and cityscapes to films whose setting is the seascape. This shift, I argue, corresponds to changes in the phases of migration that flow within and through Turkey, and both government policies and the public perception.

Robert Burgoyne

This chapter explores the unprecedented formal experiments of Richard Mosse and Ai Weiwei in their attempts to capture the signature global event of our time, the mass movements of refugees and immigrants across geopolitical boundaries. In Mosse’s Incoming, a thermal camera registers the heat emanating from human bodies from some 30 miles away, providing images of refugees in lifeboats, transport trucks, and refugee camps that are both other-worldly, almost mutant in their strangeness, and deeply moving—images that rivet the gaze. In Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, drone cameras render the vast scale of human displacement around the world—a view from above is interspersed with the close witnessing of cell phone video, using the visual language of spontaneous documentation in counterpoint with a technology associated with military surveillance. In both films, Giorgio Agamben’s concept of “bare life” is articulated within an advanced optical and technological framework that brings new critical questions into view.

Sign in / Sign up

Export Citation Format

Share Document