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The Diasporic Family in Cinema

21 May 2011

Conference at SOAS, University of London, film screening at Ciné Lumière

From Visconti’s classic tale about urban migration in Rocco and His Brothers and Coppola’s Godfather Trilogy, through mainstream family romances such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to popular or critically acclaimed depictions of diasporic domesticity in East is East, Inch’ Allah Dimanche and Die Fremde, the family assumes a prominent place in cinematic narratives about the dynamics of postmodern multiculturalism and transnational mobility.The conference will provide a platform for dialogue with filmmakers and other media professionals who engage with issues of cultural diversity. It aims to explore how media practitioners negotiate between their artistic ambitions, the demands of the public funding bodies and the market in their construction of diasporic family life on screen and how these films intervene with ongoing media debates about hegemonic and minority cultures in Western societies.

Podcasts of this conference are available here.

Contemporary cinema attests to the crisis of the institution of the family in the Western world. Films about the diasporic family suggest that this particular type of family is under even greater pressure. Displacement and dispersal, the rupture of cultural and familial ties, language barriers, social exclusion, racism and negotiations of the multi-layered politics of belonging in the host and home countries are frequently shown to lead to a destabilisation of family structures and identities. Conversely, however, many films also foreground the benefits of non-Western family values and kinship networks and thereby offer a critique of the Western cult of the individual and the alleged superiority of the hegemonic white family.

The conference will be accompanied by public screenings of films that offer complementary views of diasporic family life:  Feo Aladag’s Oscar-nominated film Die Fremde/When We Leave about an honour killing in a Turkish-German family and Sandhya Suri’s documentary, I for India, about her own family’s migratory history. 

Confirmed contributors:

  • Dr Feo Aladag, independent filmmaker (When We Leave)
  • Dr Daniela Berghahn, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Professor Stella Bruzzi, University of Warwick
  • Professor Rachel Dwyer, SOAS, University of London
  • Gareth Jones, Scenario Films and BABYLON International
  • Dr Sarita Malik, Brunel University
  • Dr Claudia Sternberg, University of Leeds
  • Sandhya Suri, independent filmmaker (I for India
  • Professor Carrie Tarr, Kingston University
  • Leslee Udwin, Assassin Films, producer of East is East and West is West 

For further information and registration please contact:

Centres & Programmes Office, SOAS on or Tel +44 (0)20 7898 4892

Advance conference registration by 20 May 2011 is required of all attendees. Conference fee of £18 (£10 concessionary rate for students)  includes tea/coffee and a buffet lunch. 

Please book online at:

Tickets for the film screening of When We Leave are available from the Ciné Lumière Box Office:

Tel  +44 (0)20 7073 1350 or

Conference Programme

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG


Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London)

10.15 – 11.00  KEYNOTE

Chair: Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Stella Bruzzi (University of Warwick) Macho Italiano: Hollywood's Italian-American Fathers - Why Are They So Awful?

11.00 – 11.50 PANEL A 

Chair: Yosefa Loshitzky (University of East London)

Rachel Dwyer (SOAS, University of London) Innocents Abroad: The Diaspora in the Shaping of the Imagined Indian Family

Carrie Tarr (Kingston University) Diasporic Families and the Rehabilitation of the Father Figure in Recent French Cinema


I for India (Sandhya Suri, UK, 2005), followed by a Q&A with Sandhya Suri


I for India is a chronicle of immigration in Britain, from the Sixties to the present day, as seen through the eyes of one Asian family and their movie camera. In 1965 Yash Pal Suri, a young doctor, left India for the U.K. with hopes of improving his family’s life. The first thing he did upon arriving in England was to buy two Super 8mm cameras, two projectors and two reel-to-reel tape recorders. He sent one of each to his family in India, and kept the others for himself. Over the next forty years, through regular mailings of his filmed and taped thoughts and observations, he shared his new life abroad with family members back home, providing a unique record of the eccentricities—and occasional racism—of his new English hosts. Back in India, his relatives, in turn, responded with their own “cine-letters,” sending tales of weddings, festivals and village life, along with impassioned pleas for his return.

13.30 – 14.30 LUNCH & COFFEE

14.30- 15.20 PANEL B

Chair: Mark Hobart (SOAS, University of London) 

Claudia Sternberg (University of Leeds) Sequelising the Difference: Transethnicity and the Family in West is West 

Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London) My Big Fat Diasporic Wedding: Negotiating between Tradition and Modernity


Negotiating between Artistic Ambitions, Funding and the Market Place

Chairs: Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Sarita Malik (Brunel University) 

Feo Aladag (director/scriptwriter When We Leave, Germany 2010)

Gareth Jones (Scenario Films and founder of BABYLON)

Sandhya Suri (director/scriptwriter I for India, UK 2005)

Leslee Udwin (producer East is East, UK 1999 and West is West, UK 2010)


(17 Queensberry Place, London, SW7 2DT, cinema tickets not included in the conference fee)

When We Leave (Feo Aladag, Germany, 2010) followed by a Q&A session with Feo Aladag


What would you sacrifice for your family’s love? Your values? Your freedom? Your life? German-born Umay  (Sibel Kekilli) flees from her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem (Nizam Schiller) with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions. They are torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately, they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family’s love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn’t realize is just how deep the wounds are and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become...

The conference is co-hosted by the Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, the Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS, and the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies, SOAS, in association with the Screen Studies Group, University of London, the Goethe Institute and the Ciné Lumière. It is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Supported by:

Levitra Priligy
college doctor