Beur Cinema

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As South and East Asian, African, and Caribbean diasporas disrupt the prevailing Christian and racialized delineation of Europe, nation-states in the European Union are undergoing economic and political integration and dramatic demographic changes. Since the 1980s filmmakers, especially diasporic and exilic ones, have explored the émigré experience with increasing frequency and in greater depth. Accented cinema formations have developed in Britain (black and Asian film and video collectives), in the United States (Iranian, African American, and Asian American), and, to a lesser extent, in Canada (South Asian).

Among filmmakers who reside in France, a cine beur, or beur cinemas, has evolved, exploring the preoccupations and concerns of transnational migrant communities that have settled there. The word beur is French slang for ''Arab'' and signifies the ambivalence associated with bicultural identity despite French nationality. It also signifies the distinction and tension between French of Maghreb ancestry and their North African immigrant parents. Les beurs constitute a distinctive bicultural group. As the children of North African immigrants from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco (the Maghreb), concentrated particularly in the banlieues (housing projects on the peripheries of French cities), la génération beur attained prominence during the late 1970s amid racial tension, the rise of extreme right-wing movements (such as the Front National), and national debates about immigration, integration, and assimilation in France.

Beur cinema, which has a kinship with banlieue and ''hip hop'' cinemas, is part of a larger beur artistic tradition and social movement in music, art, photography, theater, and literature. Beur films are for the most part narratives told in a realist mode that have popular appeal; they are shaped by a shared colonial experience and language (French) and, with few exceptions, are by men about male-centered narratives in which women are largely marginalized. Recurrent themes are the urban multiethnic realities of unemployment, street crime, poverty, and state surveillance and regulation; the institutional, social, and personal consequences of racism; the conflicts and tensions between North African and French cultures; the intergenerational conflicts between North African émigrés and their beur children, especially with regard to patriarchal authority; and the tensions caused by uprootedness, exile, deterritorialization, nostalgia, escape, and repatriation.

The more recent evolution of beur cinema, however, suggests that its composition and concerns are provisional, as some filmmakers make the transition to other areas of filmmaking in France and address non-beur subjects. Addressing themes related to beur (and banlieue) cinema, the film Bye-Bye (1995) examines contemporary French society, which is becoming increasingly multiethnic, multiracial, hybridized, and fractured along class lines. Directed by Karim Dridi (b. 1961), a Franco-Tunisian filmmaker, Bye-Bye chronicles the anguished, violent, and indeterminate odyssey of Ismael, a Franco-Maghrebi who escorts his younger brother, Mouloud, south from Paris via Marseilles to their parents' ''homeland'' in Tunisia. By framing the narrative in the context of a journey, the film emphasizes two features of post-coloniality: the territorial divide between France and its former colonies and their diasporic settlement, and the cultural paradoxes of postcoloniality. These paradoxes are signified in an effective counterpoint, in which the imperatives of capitalism and pluralism contest Islamic traditions and practices, along with parental fealty. Neither side of this deterritorialized and dislocating space offers Ismaeél solace.

Ismaél's ambivalence, and Mouloud's unequivocal rejection of the ''home country,'' underscores their generation's displacement and break with tradition and familial, especially paternal, authority. At ease neither in French nor in Maghreb cultures, Ismaeél longs for another home (land), which attests to his marginality as a dia-sporic subject. Thus, in Bye-Bye the eémigreé experience forsakes the collective for the personal and exemplifies the existential characteristic of beur cinema.

see also National Cinema; Race and Ethnicity further reading

Bloom, Peter. 'Beur Cinema and the Politics of Location: French Immigration Politics and the Naming of a Film Movement.'' In The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media, edited by Marcia Landy, 44-62. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Bluher, Dominique. ''Hip-Hop Cinema in France.'' Camera Obscura 17, no. 4 (2001).

Braziel, Jana Evans, and Anita Mannur, eds. Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader. Boston: Blackwell, 2003.

Desai, Jigna. Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Fielder, Adrian. ''Poaching on Public Space: Urban Autonomous Zones in French Banlieue Films.'' In Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, edited by Mark Shield and Tony Fitzmaurice. Boston: Blackwell, 2001.

Higson, Andrew. ''The Concept of National Cinema.'' Screen 30, no. 4 (1989): 36-46.

Martin, Michael T., ed. Cinemas of the Black Diaspora. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1995.

--, ed. New Latin American Cinema: Studies of National

Cinemas. Vol. 2. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

Naficy, Hamid. An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic

Filmmaking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. Papastergiadis, Nikos. The Turbulence ofMigration. Cambridge:

Polity Press, 2000. Rueschmann, Eva, ed. Moving Pictures, Migrating Identities.

Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003. Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism:

Multiculturalism and the Media. New York: Routledge, 1994. Tarr, Carrie. ''Questions of Identity in Beur Cinema: From Tea in the Harem to Cheb." Screen 34, no. 4 (1993): 321-342. Williams, Alan. Film and Nationalism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Michael T. Martin Marilyn Yaquinto

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