Screening European Heritage

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Challenging the aesthetics of heritage cinema: Shabby chic and archival footage in diasporic heritage films

Focusing on Turkish German and Maghrebi French films that portray the history of immigration, this paper asks whether the historical imaginary of socially marginalized migrant and diasporic communities can be accommodated within the critical paradigm of (post-)heritage cinema. Diasporic heritage films participate in the nation-building project pursued by heritage cinema, in particular during its early phase, but rather than projecting beautiful images of a sanitised and aestheticised national past in which the bourgeoisie and the upper echelons of society take centre stage, the family drama Solino (Fatih Akın, 2002), the comedy’ Almanya – Welcome to Germany (Yasemin Samdereli, 2011) and Outside the Law (Rachid Bouchareb, 2010), an example of what Belén Vidal (2012) has theorized as ‘poltically articulate heritage cinema’, promote social expansion by claiming a space for the collective memory of immigrants, which has been elided or misrepresented in the national history of the host nations. Despite sharing a number of distinctive features with heritage cinema, notably a sense of nostalgia, a fascination with period costume and a ‘tourist gaze’ (Urry 2002) in the way landscapes and cityscapes are shot, visually these films are rather different from heritage cinema as we know it. They combine the shabby chic of a materially deprived existence and with the visual celebration of retro fashion and design. Historical authenticity is created not just through an accurate reproduction of period detail but also through the insertion of archival footage, a strategy commonly associated with postmemory films (Berghahn 2013) rather than heritage cinema.
Period12 Sept 201313 Sept 2013
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United KingdomShow on map


  • heritage cinema
  • diasporic cinema
  • diasporic aesthetics
  • film, history and memory
  • European cinema