Interethnic Romance and Mixed Families in Contemporary European Cinema

Activity: OtherPublic engagement, outreach and knowledge exchange - Public Lecture/debate/seminar


In this Keynote Lecture at the public event LovingDay.NL in Amsterdam, Daniela Berghahn explores the representation of interracial and interethnic romance in contemporary European cinema, while also considering some key American examples (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Jungle Fever and My Big Fat Greek Wedding). She argues that interethnic romance typically functions as a litmus test about attitudes towards immigrants and ethnic minorities. Films such as Evet, I Do! and the American indie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a paradigmatic ethnic romantic comedy and wedding film, culminate in the spectacle of exotic weddings that mark the inclusion of the Other in the circle of the family and, by implication, the nation. Queer interethnic couples serve as a master trope of cultural hybridity since they are doubly coded as Other. For example in Nina’s Heavenly Delights, the Scottish Asian couple’s ‘coming out’ and union challenges fantasies of purity, which simultaneously underpin the ‘natural family’, based on bloodline and descent, heteronormativity and supposedly natural gender hierarchies, and nationalist ideologies, based on ethnic absolutism and other homogenising concepts. Reflecting the ever-increasing cultural diversity of European societies, many recent films feature love stories between different ethnic minorities, in which the romantic couple has to overcome familial prejudice and racial and religious divides. Ae Fond Kiss….and Bad Faith make a powerful plea for what Paul Gilroy has theorized as ‘postcolonial urban conviviality’. As the antipode to race thinking with its insistence on racial purity, postcolonial urban conviviality finds its expression in the spontaneous cohabitation and interaction of different races and ethnicities that have made ‘multiculture an ordinary feature of social life’ in urban centres and postcolonial cities in Europe and elsewhere (Gilroy 2004). However, rarely do these romances between Muslims, Catholics, Jews, blacks and beurs end in blissful matrimony; instead any promise of commitment and the prospect of a happy future together remains tenuous.

Keynote address at LovingDay.NL, Amsterdam, 12 June 2015 LovingDay.NL is a public event celebrating mixed couples. LovingDay.NL has been inspired by the American annual celebrations Loving Day, also on 12 June, the anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court decision in the case of Loving vs. Virginia. In this momentous ruling, the United States Supreme Court abolished all anti-miscegentation laws remaining in force in 16 U.S. states at the time. The Supreme Court ruled: "There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause." LovingDay.NL has been celebrated since 2013 with an annual symposium at De Balie, the most important cultural centre for public debate in Amsterdam. De Balie is leading in organising public debate activities with national impact. In 2015, the LovingDay.NL programme is co-curated by Prof. Dr. Betty de Heart (Professor of Migration Law) at Amsterdam University's Centre for European Law and Governance.
Period12 Jun 2015
Event titleLovingDay.NL
Event typeOther
LocationAmsterdam, NetherlandsShow on map


  • interethnic couples
  • interracial couples
  • mixed families
  • European cinema
  • diasporic cinema
  • migration
  • migrant cinema
  • diasporic families
  • romantic comedies
  • Loving Day NL
  • race
  • racial discrimination