Farflungfamilies.net is the website of a research project which examines the representation of the diasporic family in contemporary cinema. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain. The website aims to provide information about relevant films, bibliographical resources and events, such as conferences and film screenings. You can also listen to podcasts of conference panels and a round table discussion with filmmakers and other media professionals. The website is an interactive resource and you are warmly invited to comment on the blogs and films.
Facultimedia recently interviewed me about this project and you can watch the video here.
Screening the family in the age of transnational migration
In the age of accelerated transnational migration, migrant, diasporic and other forms of transnational family are increasingly represented on film, yet they have been neglected in film studies. While there is a significant body of scholarship on the representation of the family in Hollywood cinema, an analysis of the diasporic family in cinema from a comparative, transnational angle has yet to be attempted. Kinship is an issue of universal significance, but the structures (nuclear, multi-generational, extended, dual heritage families, etc.) and the value- and belief-systems that underpin family life are always culturally specific.
This research project seeks to analyse the representation of families with a migratory background and will focus primarily on the most established diasporic film cultures in Europe (Maghrebi French, Black British, Asian British and Turkish German cinema) from the mid-1980s to the present. The time period selected is not arbitrary: the majority of films under consideration have evolved from and reflect the movements from Europe’s former colonies to imperial ‘mother countries’ and other labour migrations since the 1950s. Unlike the relatively isolated earlier attempts of filmmakers with a migratory background to capture their personal experiences or those of their ethnic constituencies on film, those filmmakers who have come to the fore since the mid-1980s in Britain, France and Germany have made feature films, rather than shorts and documentaries, thereby ensuring the increased visibility and the cross-over appeal of their films.
Migrant and diasporic film, alongside music, must be seen as the most significant and popular artistic practice with regard to the (self-)representation of migrant and diasporic groups. Many contemporary diasporic films have enjoyed considerable mainstream appeal. This is particularly true of diasporic family films. Moreover, the issues addressed in the research, such as the opportunities and conflicts arising from migration and cultural diversity and the transformation of family structures and values, are both topical and controversial. Issues such as arranged marriage and honour killings continue to make media headlines and these themes also play a role in diasporic family films. But conversely, media discourses suggest that diasporic subject positions are gradually becoming an asset rather than a liability, as state leaders and transnational elites publicly promote their ethnic roots/routes or dual heritage.