This study explores the representation of international migration on screen and how it has gained prominence and salience in European filmmaking over the past 100 years. Using Polish migration as a key example due to its long-standing cultural resonance across the continent, this book moves beyond a director-oriented approach and beyond the dominant focus on postcolonial migrant cinemas. It succeeds in being both transnational and longitudinal by including a diverse corpus of more than 150 films from some twenty different countries, of which Roman Polański’s The Tenant, Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion and Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Trois couleurs: Blanc are the best-known examples. Engaging with contemporary debates on modernisation and Europeanisation, the author proposes the notion of “close Otherness” to delineate the liminal position of fictional characters with a Polish background. Polish Migrants in European Film 1918-2017 takes the reader through a wide range of genres, from interwar musicals to Cold War defection films; from communist-era exile right up to the contemporary moment. It is suitable for scholars interested in European or Slavic studies, as well as anyone who is interested in topics such as identity construction, ethnic representation, East-West cultural exchanges and transnationalism. 

Check out the book (and the individual chapters) at the Palgrave Macmillan website.


Provides a profoundly transnational approach, drawing on case studies from more than 15 countries

Adds a longitudinal and diachronic perspective to the subject of migration in European cinema

Offers an in-depth discussion of the nexus between migration and European identity/identities through the prism of modernisation and Europeanisation 



Kris Van Heuckelom is Professor of Polish Studies and Cultural Studies at KU Leuven, Belgium. He specialises in late modern Polish culture, with a particular focus on comparative and transnational perspectives, and has published several books, edited volumes and anthologies in these domains.


“This ambitious study charts the transformations of Polish migrants in European film against the background of Polish political and social history, histories of the countries which hosted Polish migrants and their respective cinemas. Van Heuckelom captures well the uniqueness as well as the typicality of the fate of the Polish migrant, who in European cinema was often equated with a generic Eastern European or Russian traveller. Sophisticated, elegant and jargon-free, Polish Migrants in European Film 2018-2017 will be a great resource for  anybody interested in discourses on migration and in the less known facets of Polish and European history and society.”

Ewa Mazierska, Professor of Film Studies, University of Central Lancashire

“Diligently researched, thoughtfully planned, and well-written, Kris Van Heuckelom’s book is a notable contribution to the studies on the perceptions of Eastern Europe in the West and a compulsory reading for anyone interested in Polish culture. The diachronic and transnational approach developed by the author is inspiring and can be reapplied to investigate diverse national stereotypes in other media and in relation to other ethnicities. The book also pays an indirect homage to European cinema and its alluringly complex history. Apart from relying on the works of acclaimed directors, like Jean Renoir or Roman Polanski, the author unearths numerous forgotten yet interesting films, like Georg Tressler’s Das Totenschiff (1959) or Christoforos Christofis’ Roza (1982). Van Heuckelom’s monograph succeeds in revealing the key factors underpinning the representation of migrants of Polish extraction in European film and his work will certainly inspire further exploration of the subject.”

Stankomir Nicieja, Head of the Department of Anglophone Cultures, University of Opole (book review in Studies in Eastern European Cinemas)

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