Film and Migration: Narrative, Genre, Spectatorship

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration


Human migration – the movement of people across political boundaries – has always been a significant factor in the production, distribution, and exhibition of films. In the United States, the non‐narrative silent films made in the early years of the medium (1895–1902) appealed primarily to working‐class immigrants. These early films adopted the shocking and spectacular style of fairground attractions, sporting events, and magic acts popular with non‐English‐speaking audiences. In later periods, film production houses such as the Ufa studio in Germany and the Hollywood studios in the United States benefited greatly from the creative contributions of immigrant workers. In the 1940s and 1950s, for instance, Fritz Lang, Michael Curtiz, Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, and other European émigrés helped to usher in a greater realism to American screens and were instrumental in the development of the film noir style. The postwar period also saw the emergence and proliferation of film festivals, which today function as nodes in a vast global network that enables the migration of film products, ideas, and technologies across borders. Film festivals constitute interstitial spaces of exchange that catalyze the global circulation and reproduction of film culture. The existence today of festivals devoted to films about migration is a testament to the increasing prominence of cinematic representations of the migrant experience. It is this engagement with migration at the textual level of narrative, genre, and spectatorial address that is the focus of this essay.



Book Publisher

John Wiley

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Published Citation

Lykidis, Alex. Film and Migration: Narrative, Genre, Spectatorship, In The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2013.