A small effort to collect examples of representation of migration in contemporary film
This list is by no means comprehensive and has no intention to be.
A rectangle (◊) denotes films filmed in a language other than English. English names in brackets (”) denote an English version’s title. The plot descriptions are quote from movie-databases, mostly IMDB, and are somewhat interesting themselves. A link to the trailer is provided wherever possible.
◊ Eden à l’Ouest, Costa Gavras, France
A drama centered around the illegal immigrants living in the EU.
French Trailer with English subtitles
◊ Ich geh’ jetzt rein, Aysun Bademsoy, Germany
A documentary about five German women in their late 20s from Agri spor, Turkey, who the director met on the football pitch when they were girls.
◊ Ein Augenblick Freiheit (‘For a Moment, Freedom’), Arash T. Riahi, Austria
Centers on a group of weary Iranian refugees who have made their way to Turkey to apply for European visas.
German Trailer English Trailer
◊ La Forteresse, Fernand Melgar, Switzerland
About the operation of a Swiss centre where asylum seekers are received and selected. It does not focus on asylum seekers but on the workers. Over a period of 60 days, three viewpoints will be exposed: the FOM’s, which is in charge of selecting the asylum seekers, the staff’s, who in charge of maintenance and, finally, the chaplaincy’s.
Trailer (with English Subtitles)
Live Safely in Europe, Emanuel Danesch, Austria
The film LiveSafelyinEurope starts as a commercial for a gated community. The initial text taken from real commercials for such residential communities is combined with a montage of nostalgic images of childhood, historical views of the Berlin Wall and citations from the film Stepford Wives. In a kaleidoscope of scenes filmed in gated communities, at the European borders, in migrant ghettos and closed spaces in the virtual world of the ‘second life’, the film questions the concept of security and shows the ambivalence of this constructed reality.
Film’s Website – full film available online in English
◊ La Misma Luna (‘Under The Same Moon’), Patricia Riggen, Mexico
A young Mexican boy travels to the U.S. to find his mother after his grandmother passes away.
Spanish Trailer (English Subtitles)
◊ Auf der anderen Seite (‘The Edge of Heaven’), Fatih Akin, Germany
A Turkish man travels to Istanbul to find the daughter of his father’s former girlfriend.
◊ Exile Family Movie, Arash T. Riahi, Austria
A family’s story, typically crazy and exceptional at the same time. A film about home and exile, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and all the other relatives, close and distant, in an extended Persian family. Some of them emigrated to Europe or America, though the majority has stayed in Iran. Regardless of all the danger involved, they secretly meet after 20 years at a place which won’t raise suspicion among the Iranian authorities: Mecca. They come from America, Sweden, Austria and Iran to laugh, argue, cook and celebrate. This is accompanied by an excessive amount of hugging and kissing, and also a clash between Muslim and Western cultures.
Nuovomondo (‘Golden Door’), Emanuele Crialese, Italy
The story is set at the beginning of the 20th century in Sicily. Salvatore, a very poor farmer, and a widower, decides to emigrate to the US with all his family, including his old mother. Before they embark, they meet Lucy. She is supposed to be a British lady and wants to come back to the States. Lucy, or Luce as Salvatore calls her, for unknown reasons wants to marry someone before to arrive to Ellis Island in New York. Salvatore accepts the proposal. Once they arrive in Ellis Island they spend the quarantine period trying to pass the examinations to be admitted to the States. Tests are not so simple for poor farmers coming from Sicily. Their destiny is in the hands of the custom officers.
English Trailer Italian Trailer
Sabah, Ruba Nadda, Canada
One day, when Sabah least expects it, she falls in love with the wrong man. She’s Muslim, he’s not. Unbeknownst to her family, she goes on a whirlwind affair before both culture and love collide.
◊ Zeit der Wünsche (‘Time of Wishes’), Rolf Schübel, Germany
This heart-breaking TV movie focuses on the first generation of Turkish migrant workers coming to Germany in the 1960s. Melike and Mustafa grow up in a village in the rude Eastern part of Turkey. Melike dreams of marrying Mustafa, until he and his friend Kadir decide to leave their home country to work in Germany. After two years, the young woman has to marry the much older Yasar, although she does not love him. For financial reasons, Melike also emigrates to the “golden West” and starts working in a factory. She meets Mustafa, now working as an artist, again and revives their romance, but one day, Yassar is standing in front of her door…
First Part in German
Ae Fond Kiss (‘Just A Kiss’), Ken Loach, UK
Sparks fly in Glasgow’s south side when a young Asian man enters into a relationship with a Caucasian woman.
◊ Gegen die Wand (‘Head-On’), Fatih Akin, Germany
In ‘Gegen die Wand’ Cahit, a 40-something male from Mersin in Turkey has removed everything Turkish from his life. He has become an alcoholic drug addict and at the start of the movie wants to end it all. Sibel a 20-something female from Hamburg wishes to please her Turkish parents yet yearns for freedom. She has had her nose broken by her brother for being seen holding hands with a boy and yet she can not break her mother’s heart and run away. She too attempts suicide and she first approaches Cahit there at the Hospital. Sibel asks Cahit to marry her, as she believes this to be the way out of her parent’s house. She promises Cahit that their relationship will be like roommates, not like a married couple. The film follows Sibel and Cahit as they get married, become closer and eventually fall in love.
German Trailer & English Trailer
◊ Le Grand Voyage, Ismaël Ferroukhi, France
Reda, a young French-Moroccan guy and his old father drive from the south of France to Mecca in order for the father to do his pilgrimage. At first distant, they gradually learn to know each other.
French Trailer with Subtitles
Yasmin, Kenny Gleenan, UK
A young Muslim woman living in Britain campaigns for the release of her immigrant husband from his detainment in a holding centre.
◊ Kleine Freiheit (‘A Little Bit of Freedom’), Yüksel Yavuz, Germany
Baran is a young Kurd who was sent to Hamburg after his parents, who had helped Kurdish rebels, were betrayed and subsequently killed by the Turkish militia. Now that Baran is 16, he is no longer allowed to stay in Germany and faces the bleak prospect of getting deported back. Baran meets Chernor, an African boy who has the same problem and trafficks drugs to make some money. Chernor is openly gay and their friendship has sexual overtones from the beginning. Baran also has very little interest in girls, even though a marriage might solve his immigration-related legal trouble.Things get even more complicated when Baran spots the traitor of his family and wants to kill him. However, the man pleads for his life and Baran spares him. After this act of forgiveness, Cherno and Baran have sex together for the first time, making it clear to Baran that his interest in Cherno goes beyond friendship. Finally, both Cherno and Baran, who had made a desperate attempt to free Cherno, are arrested by the police.
Bend It Like Beckham, Gurinder Chadha, UK
Jess Bhamra is a teenager with only one real passion in her life: football. She daydreams of being a great soccer star and her hero is David Beckham. She soon strikes up a friendship with Juliette Paxton, Jules to her friends, and joins a girls team coached by the rather handsome Joe. She comes from a traditional, close-knit and loving Sikh family. Her parents only want the best for both of their daughters but Jess’ fascination with sports doesn’t fit into their idea of a young woman future. Jess isn’t comfortable sneaking about and she and Jules fall out when they both take an amorous interest in Joe. With her sister’s wedding on the same day as the football final, where a US College scout will be present to assess her performance, Jess must decide if she will support her family or her friends.
◊ Kanak Attack, Lars Becker, Germany
Self-conscious German-Turkish hipsters and petty crime rule the day in this gangland piece, the main focus of which is Ertan (Luke Piyes), a young punk who wants to be a bigtime player in his town’s drug scene.
◊ La Faute à Voltaire (‘Poetical Refugee’), Abdellatif Kechiche, France
Like a Candide dreaming of Eldorado, Jallel lands in France, hoping to try his luck. From encounter to encounter, hostel to social welfare group, Jallel will make his way through a Paris of outcasts. Although failing to achieve his hopes, he discovers and shares in the solidarity felt by the destitute
◊ Dealer, Thomas Arslan, Germany
Despite many attempts, Can is unable to devote himself to anything other than a career in crime, as a small-time dealer and errand-boy for drug boss Hakan. Hakan keeps his customers supplied within his narrowly staked out territory. Can’s lover Jale who works in the warehouse of a department store, has been pressing Can to give up his activity. Can, also fed up with his situation, sees a bright new beginning for himself and his family when Hakan offers him the prospective chance to run a bar on his own. But Can has little control over the pressure that gradually begin to build up around him and soon finds himself floundering in quicksand…
East is East, Damien O’Donnell, UK
In 1971 Salford fish-and-chip shop owner George Khan expects his family to follow his strict Pakistani Muslim ways. But his children, with an English mother and having been born and brought up in Britain, increasingly see themselves as British and start to reject their father’s rules on dress, food, religion, and living in general.
◊ Lola und Bilidikid (‘Lola and Billy the Kid’), Kutlug Ataman, Germany
17-year old Murat from Turkey, living in Berlin, Germany, slowly discovers his homosexuality. His older brother Osman, head of the family since the father’s death, wants him to finally lose his virginity (in a heterosexual manner) and thus causes Murat to run away. In a bar, Murat meets Lola, who has some things to tell about him. He also meets Bilidikid, Lolas man, who thinks that Murat might have thrown an eye on Lola. But the truth about Lola, Murat and his family is far worse that anyone could have expected.
◊ Alles Wird Gut (‘Everything Will Be Fine’), Angelina Maccarone, Germany
Young Afro-German lesbian Nabou, depressed after the departure of her punk-rocker lover Katja, bicycles aimlessly about the city when not hanging out with her spacy roommate Giuseppe. To spy on Katja, Nabou accepts a job offer to work as a maid in Katja’s building. But she quickly forgets about Katja after meeting her new employer, attractive ad exec Kim involved in a ho-hum relationship with her male ad agency boss. It’s not long before neon billboards flash and sparks fly as Nabou and Kim acknowledge their mutual attraction.
◊ Aprilkinder (‘April Children’), Yüksel Yavuz, Germany
The brothers Cem and Mehmet live with their sister Dilan and their immigrant parents in Germany. Mehmet drifts off into the world of crime while Dilan skilfully avoids her parents’ strict moral codes. The film’s protagonist is Cem, thirty-something with a menial job in a meat factory who, obeying his family’s wishes, is about to get married to a Kurdish cousin from a village back home in Turkey. Still a virgin, he is taken to a Turkish brothel and falls in love with Kim, a German prostitute. She reciprocates his feelings and even wants Cem to make a choice between his bride-to-be and her. Cem passively accepts his fate and drifts into an arranged marriage.
◊ Kurz und Schmerzlos (‘Short Sharp Shock’), Fatih Akin, Germany
Hamburg, Germany. The small crime scene. Three friends: Gabriel from Turkey and just out of prison, Costa from Greece and together with Gabriel’s sister, Bobby from Serbia and together with her best friend. Bobby wants to get more into organized crime and decides to apply for a membership in an Albanian gang. As a test, he has to beat up someone who owes his future boss. He can join. Later, when Bobby has to do a weapon’s deal on his own, he tries to get his friends in, too. But Gabriel does not want to go back into crime, he is dreaming of a life at the southern Turkish coast, owning a boat rental shop. Costa, always out of money, joins Bobby for one last time before getting good. But before the deal is on, both women start leaving their men for others. And when the deal is on, it goes terribly wrong.
German Trailer English Trailer
◊ La Haine (french for ‘hatred’), Mathieu Kassovitz, France
Abdel, a local hoodlum, is hospitalized after a riot, where a policeman lost his gun. His friend Vinz finds it and claims he will kill a cop if Abdel dies.
◊ Brothers in Trouble, Udayan Prasad, UK
Amir is an illegal Pakistani immigrant smuggled into England in the 1960’s to work, to send money to his family and perhaps even bring them over with him. A skilled laborer, he is forced to do unskilled work like shoveling sheep dung and processing wool. He lives in a boarding house with nearly a dozen other men, under the supervision of Hussein Shah. He befriends a young student, Sakib, who dreams of being a writer. Their existence is punctuated by secret movies, a visiting prostitute, fear of detection and deportation, and the gangster-like smuggler who comes by for his take every week. The household is shaken up by the arrival of a white girl, Shah’s girlfriend, and the sense of femininity and family she brings.
◊ Hexagone, Malik Chibane, France
Hexagone, shot in the Parisian suburb of Goussainville, documents the life of a working-class banlieue through a fragmented, episodic narrative which interweaves the lives of a variety of characters, principally drawn from the Maghrebi community. While the older generation are preparing for the festival of Eid, the young people of Maghrebi origin are seeking ways of finding a place for themselves in France, be it through jobs, crime, drugs or relationships.
◊ Reise der Hoffnung (‘Journey of Hope’), Xavier Koller, Switzerland
The story of a turkish poor family who tries to emigrate illegaly to Switzerland.
◊ Yasemin, Hark Bohm, West-Germany
20 years old Casanova Jan falls in love with the 3 years younger Turkish girl Yasemin, who lives in Germany with her family. She’s well protected by her father, who believes in the Turkish traditions. She has to struggle for every little freedom that’s certain for her German friends, but still respects and loves her father and keeps the appearance of an honorable Turkish girl. Her love to Jan however disturbs this fine balance. So it’s not hate or quarrel that interferes with their love, but the differences of their cultures.
◊ 40 qm Deutschland (’40 Square Meters of Germany’), Tevfik Başer, West-Germany
A turk has brought a young turk women from Turkey to his flat in Germany. The woman does not know much about Germany nor can she speak German. One day she realizes that her husband locks her in his flat when he is going to work. An inner fight against her culture and her husband begins.
My Beautiful Laundrette, Stephen Frears, UK
An ambitious Asian Briton and his white lover strive for success and hope, when they open up a glamorous laundromat.
◊ Le thé au harem d’Archimède (‘Tea in the Harem’), Mehdi Charef, France
The film describes the plight of Madjid, a second-generation Algerian growing up in Paris, who is caught between two cultures. In his desperate attempts to make sense of unfamiliar surroundings, Madjid enters into French life, despite his feelings that the culture rejects and insults Arabs.
Katzelmacher, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West-Germany
Jorgos, an emigrant worker from Greece, joins a group of young people usually hanging around. This foreigner incites hostility and jealousy among them, and he is insulted as a “Communist” and “Greek dog”. After having been attacked, Jorgos talks to Maria of his wish to return home.