Keynote Speaker: Dr. John Lyden, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, Blizek Professor of Religion and Film, and Editor of the Journal of Religion & Film.
The title of his presentation is: “Moving Images: The Changing Representation of Immigrants and Refugees in European Cinema and Television”
Film and television dramatizations of events reflect the attitudes and intentions of those who create these cultural products, and they also give us an index to popular attitudes about contemporary issues through the audience reception of the same. Through examining the creation and audience reception of recent films and television shows that depict the stories of migrants and refugees, we can see the transitions in the ways that they have been viewed in popular media. Currently, there are over 82 million people who have been forcibly displaced, and over 26 million refugees, the largest number in history. This has created an unprecedented situation for European countries in particular as they have been faced with a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable scope that does not permit of easy solutions, and which creates strongly polarized reactions in populations. Right wing groups have gained support through nationalist and nativist reactions against immigrants and refugees, in some cases drawing on long-held prejudices, while other organizations and individuals have sought to publicize the situation of displaced persons in hopes of providing humanitarian support and easing their acceptance into new societies.
This presentation will ask and seek to answer a number of questions: How have films and television programs dramatized the plight of migrants and refugees, whether in fictional or documentary form? In what ways has this portrayal changed over time in the cultural products of particular European countries? How have these portrayals been received by audiences? Does their reception indicate increased acceptance of migrants and refugees within Europe? To what extent have these portrayals influenced attitudes, either through the presentation of information or through emotional appeal?
After examining a sampling of European film and television portrayals of migrants and refugees, I will draw some tentative conclusions about the ways in which these media can be an influence as well as an index of changing attitudes.