“Face to Face with the Muslim ‘Other’. European Cinematic responses to Al-Qaeda”

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Following the events of September 11, 2001 the discourse on terrorism changed radically acquiring new symbols, meanings and its own vocabulary with terms such as ‘war on terror’, ‘the enemy-within’ and ‘9/11’. It is general knowledge that American cinema and television underwent a paradigmatic transformation in the representation of Muslims, having been caught in the grip of an oftentimes-hysterical fear of global terror offensives. This essay departs from Hollywood discourses on international terrorism to investigate how European cinema reflected upon this tragedy. The scope consists in outlining the peculiarities of European cinema in dealing with international terrorism and thus, analysing the representation of Islamic fundamentalism and more generally, Muslims. In particular, the proposed essay will focus on Fremder Freund (The Friend, Elmar Fischer, 2003) and London River (Rachid Bouchareb, 2009), two transnational European films about the impact of international terrorism within family. Similarly to Dutch-Palestinian Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005), Fremder Freund investigates the strong friendship between two young men, a German and a Yemenite flatmates whose destinies will take divergent path on the eve of 9/11. London River maintains the parallel-stories narrative recounting the search of two missing people by their respective parents on the background of London terrorist attacks.
The bombings on March 11, 2004 in Madrid and on July 7, 2005 in London brought the terror in the heart of Europe and amplified the feelings of fear, disbelief and suspicion developed as a consequence of 9/11 trauma. This essay argues that these films avoid any explicit attempts of commemorating and memorialising these tragic events, but they contextualise the attacks engaging with issues of identity politics and migration. Drawing on studies about memory and discourse analysis I argue that London River and Fremder Freund comment more about the problem of migration and multiculturalism in Europe rather than crime and terrorism. The films insert, in fact, into the public debate about contemporary society and the role of British and German institutions in developing ‘home-grown’ terrorists.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAlphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • multiculturalism
  • terrorism
  • European cinema
  • muslim identity
  • grief
  • German cinema
  • Transnational films


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