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  • Introduction:Postcolonial Migration Stories on Screen
  • Delphine Letort (bio)

This Close-Up plumbs the interstices of transnational filmmaking as illustrated by the feature films of directors with a double culture, working either as second-generation filmmakers in France or as postcolonial subjects in or having emigrated from (North) African countries. The emergence of beur cinema in the 1980s exposed the minorities that had been confined to the suburban housing projects, placing France in front of the dilemma of “coming to terms with itself as a fluid, multi-ethnic postcolonial society” as suggested by Carrie Tarr,1 simultaneously unveiling the creative and constraining dynamics of transnational productions. The box-office success of films made by North African filmmakers in France testifies to their transnational appeal, building a diasporic audience through films that interrogate the legacy of the past over the present. Diasporic cinema not only evokes the experience of the postcolonial subject in France, but also envisions contemporary difficulties in postcolonial societies. The films produced capture a dynamic relationship within the postcolonial world, arousing nostalgia for a lost homeland and fuelling dreams of new horizons through exile.

The “cinemas of the Maghreb,” argues Olivier Barlet, address shared issues in North African postcolonial societies. The French film critic identifies “the current trends in Maghrebi cinemas [that] seem to encompass documenting the various forms of resistance, breaking through barriers, daring to represent oneself differently, ducking the control of the fundamentalist, calling for a greater respect for women.”2 This assertion enhances the diasporic lens through which North African realities are represented, suggesting that transnational processes of production and distribution have eroded the national character in the cinemas of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.3 While a state monopoly was established after independence in each of the three countries, imposing specific subject matters and control over every stage of production, the constant to-and-fro movement of filmmakers between Africa [End Page 92] and France fuels cultural hybridity, allowing us to crisscross the perspectives over the experience of (de)colonization.4

Historian Benjamin Stora posits that France and Algeria’s national histories are deeply interwoven—a circumstance not acknowledged in their separate cinemas, perpetuating the colonial conflict between dominant and dominated cultures. Films about the Algerian War of Independence play out the major issues of this contested-memory event, articulating conflicting versions of the past that fuel resentful debates among groups of memory bearers—including the pieds-noirs and the Harkis. Positioning himself as an engaged historian, Stora strives to overcome the gap between French and Algerian cinemas in order to spotlight the tenets of a common history. He thus offers a path of reconciliation that has not yet been achieved, as demonstrated by his investigation into the legacy of the war on contemporary film-making.

The contributors to this Close-Up were invited to reflect on the notion of “accented cinema” as defined by Hamid Naficy in the context of postcolonial filmmaking in francophone countries. This approach accounts for the diversity of the films considered by the authors, focusing on the “accented style [that] inscribes the specificity of the filmmaker’s authorial vision, his ethnic and cultural location and sensibilities, and the stylistic postmodern transnationality.”5 The articles comprising this Close-Up therefore shed light on transnational experiences of filmmaking, resulting from the filmmakers’ singular paths as creators evolving in the interstices of film production and double cultures. A case in point is the France-based Algerian Romani director Tony Gatlif, whose work Isabelle Vanderschelden analyzes in the following pages, spotlighting the métissage, or “race mixing,” that informs his film endeavors, which she views as “cultural encounters with the Other,” building bridges with Mediterranean cultures. Through a focus on the Roma community that conveys his political engagement with the representation of this minority, including tropes of nomadism that are at odds with conventional European life and cinema, Gatlif’s filmmaking challenges the notion of “homeland” while promoting unpredictable trajectories as a motif for postmodern cultural métissage.

Through retracing the singular career of Moroccan filmmaker and writer Farida Benlyazid, Florence Martin enhances the cautious engagement of a feminist voice in the context of the Years of Lead—the thirty-year-long period of...


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pp. 92-95
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