Thursday, February 08, 2007

German Film and Migration - A History of Perception

At Home Abroad
German Film and Migration - A History of Perception

Georg Seesslen [1]
Source: German Films | Full Text From Mavi Boncuk Archives

"Angst fressen Seele auf" (photo courtesy of Filmmuseum Berlin/Deutsche Kinemathek) "Katzelmacher" (photo courtesy of Filmmuseum Berlin/Deutsche Kinemathek) "Erkan & Stefan" (photo courtesy of Hofmann & Voges Filmproduktion) "dealer" (photo courtesy of Trans-Film)

In the objective language of the encyclopedia, the word "migration" means "the itinerant motion of human individuals or groups resulting in a change of residence that is more than short-term." In addition, a division is made into "emigration" (leaving a country), "immigration" (entering a country) and the rarer form "permigration" (passing through a country); finally, political law distinguishes between legal and illegal migration. Seen from this point of view, migration is a movement in history expressed by figures and laws, and illustrated by brightly-colored arrows on maps. But for the individual, migration means no less than destiny; a life between fear and hope, between alienation and integration. These are stories that must be told, to aid understanding and the understanding of self, or because migration is mankind's story per se, with all its perceptions and feelings, with all its dramas and grotesques. And there are few media as capable of describing migration and its consequences in such a precise, sensual way as the cinema.


Like cinema beure in France and films by Hanif Kureishi in England, third generation cinema - with a delay of one decade - experienced a heyday in Germany during the nineties. The filmmakers formed networks and a number of films also succeeded in gaining acknowledgement at the center of (cinema) culture. Even the cinema of foreignness was developed into a kind of mainstream variation during the nineties; as in Eine unmoegliche Hochzeit (1996, Horst Johann Sczerba), it combined elements of situation comedy with issues of asylum, or as in amusing comedies such as Lupo und der Muezzin, it described minor cultural clashes in the German provinces. Despite the comic tone of such films, they are far from any illusions of trouble-free integration.


"Lola + Bilidikid" (photo © courtesy of zerofilm/Boje-Buck) "Geschwister" (photo courtesy of Trans-Film) "der schoene Tag" (photo courtesy of zerofilm/Pickpocket Film) "Auslandstournee" (photo courtesy of Mira Film)

"Ghetto Kids" (photo © BR) "Elefantenherz" (photo courtesy of Cameo Film) "Urban Guerillas" (photo © 36Pictures) "Kebab Connection" (photo © Georges Pauly)

"Kurz und schmerzlos" (photo © Wueste Film) "Was lebst Du?" (photo © ICON Film/Bettina Braun) "Gegen die Wand" (photo © Wueste Film/Kerstin Stelter)

[1] Film critic and author George Seesslen (* 1948 in Munich) studied painting, history of art and Semiologie in Munich. He lectured at different universities at home and abroad and works as a freelance writer for epd Film, Frankfurter Rundschau, Freitag, Jungle world, konkret, Der Tagesspiegel, taz and DIE ZEIT.

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