- In Permanent Crisis: Ethnicity in Contemporary European Media and Cinema by Ipek Çelik
Reflecting the transnational migration to and within Europe over the past decades—well before the increased refugee movements in 2015—scholarly work on the changing representations of minorities and migrants in European media has become increasingly prominent across a wide range of disciplines. Adding a stimulating new voice to existing research in cinema studies, Ipek Çelik's innovative and thought-provoking book discusses four European auteurs and the representation of refugees, migrants, and minorities of migrant origin in European media and cinema. [End Page 551]
In her introduction, Çelik argues that a repeated narrative of victimhood appears to be a major component of depictions of minorities, not only in the cinema, but in the media more generally. Çelik begins by highlighting how the media discourse on riots, terrorism, and criminal events such as honour killings brings "Europe's minorities to the public visibility and often reduce[s] their identities to that of perpetrators or victims of violence" (4). She then shows how the filmmakers she discusses in the book follow or replicate that very media image in one way or another. Çelik underpins this thesis with "situated analyses" of four films: in each chapter, Çelik presents "close readings that pay attention to historical and geographic specificities as well as context-specific debates on migration and minority communities in each country" (5). These debates range from the media depictions of asylum seekers in Britain, to questions of guilt regarding the colonial past and postcolonial present in France, to migration from the Balkans to Greece and the challenges it poses for Greek identities, to the debates about the perceived repression of Muslim women and the integration of Muslims in Germany (5). Çelik states that these "transnational filmmakers reveal the pervasive anxieties that see European identity under an urgent risk" (5). Çelik further elaborates on how genre plays a major role in framing European tragedy on the cinema screen. The "chapters explore genres as transnational and historically situated aesthetic forms that frame the affective economy transferred from media events to film and unfold the affects that surround the public visibility of Europe's Others" (25). Ultimately, assessing how her chosen films attach "themselves to conventional generic framings of Europe's Others in the media (the Other's story as dystopic, tragic, thrilling, or melodramatic)," Çelik explores how they "both profit from and bend conventionality from within" (21).
First, Çelik examines Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian science fiction film Children of Men, where a future Britain suffers from infertility problems among its citizens, until one Black, pregnant refugee in need of medical and humanitarian help appears. Although a fictional narrative set in the future, the film takes up common representations and anxieties articulated in contemporary British public discourse on migration, such as constructions of the "hyperfertile polygamous bodies of Muslim" migrant women, fears regarding declining birth rates among white citizens, and notions of the so-called bogus refugee (31).
Next, Çelik unravels the treatment of French colonialism in Michael Haneke's Hidden and explores the "colonial history of police violence in Paris" and the "visibility and invisibility of minorities of Algerian origin in France" (26). Using aspects of the thriller genre, the film depicts a white French man (Georges) and his family as they are being tormented by surveillance videos. These are shown to be linked to an Algerian who has suffered from both the wrongdoings of Georges and the collective wrongdoings of colonial France (55). Çelik argues that Hidden "represents the repression of colonial violence in French collective memory and its transfer to postcolonial subjects as the inheritors of this repressed violence" (73). She notices that "[a]s the Algerian characters seem to be obsessed [End Page 552] with the recognition of their suffering, their identity is established as one that emerges from this very suffering" (74).
The third chapter scrutinizes Constantinos Giannaris's Hostage—a hijacking that ends with casualties—and "the complex networks of power...