The key, I think, to Jim, is that he went gray when he was 15 … As a result, he always felt like an immigrant in the teenage world. He’s been an immigrant – a benign, fascinated foreigner – ever since. And all his films are about that.
Tom Waits on filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, as quoted in The New YorkTimes
From February to May 2011 The Bioscope, in partnership with The Goethe Insitut JHB, presented the film series “Home Away From Home: Films on Migration”.
The selected films share a cinematic tradition as old as the medium itself and demonstrate the persistent cultural weight of a phenomenon that shaped the political and economic realities of the beginning of the 20th century as much as it shapes our new century.
Migration has not just provided a recurrent theme for generations of filmmakers; it has also been an inherent underpinning of the development of the medium and the industry of film itself. Cinema’s birth is entwined with the mass migrations that defined the turn of the last century and in many ways still represents precisely the ephemeral image people are migrating towards. The dizzying aspirations and fears that have fueled much of over a century’s movement of people, are not only documented in film, they have also had a profound effect on what film is: communal dream, nightmare and fantasy.
The selected films span styles from the conventional to experimental, from documentary to social realism to magic and melodrama, but share a cinematic and political tradition. While filmic representations of migrant experience have in many instances created and upheld often negative dominant views, the medium has also challenged these views and enriched the complex discourse around the subject.
“Home Away From Home” pays homage to this progressive tradition with a line-up of films that reflect a diversity of points of view, with stories from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. We are led backwards through time to the waves of migration from Europe to America in the early 1900’s as dramatized then – and re-imagined now, and travel to a future in which Africa has become a superpower European immigrants are desperate to access.
Cinema has captured the essential continuity of the previous century’s great antagonisms: between tradition and modernity, the world’s supposed centers and margins, exile and home, belonging and alienation and desire and desperation. With films that question national, group and individual identity within various contexts both obliquely and directly; “Home Away From Home” aims to reflect a movement in filmmaking which proves more pertinent than ever in an era of emerging “global apartheid” (Slavoj Zizek) where globalization and resurgent chauvinisms are ironic bedfellows.
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