Surgical passports, the EU and Dirty Pretty Things: Rethinking European identity through popular cinema Articles uri icon

publication date

  • August 2011

start page

  • 21

end page

  • 30


  • 1


  • 8

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1741-1548

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2040-0594


  • In the last decade and a half, many cultural and social commentators have theorized the reconfiguration of the geopolitical space of the European Union (EU) through the increasing presence of a wide variety of ethnicities and nationalities. This essay takes Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, 2002) as a point of departure in order to analyse how contemporary cinema captures the ambivalent status of illegal immigrants inside the European global cityscape. First, it explains how the film represents the immigrants' subjectivity in terms of their split consciousness between their homeland and their country of adoption. Second, it scrutinizes how the immigrant social body may or may not function as an effective actor in the social field. Third, it studies how Frears utilizes a wide range of generic devices to situate his film into the realm of popular culture. Fourth, it defines the concept of popular cinema and evaluates its role as a form of political agency in the contemporary historical milieu. To conclude, this essay questions European cinema as an all-encompassing concept that fails to capture the cultural and linguistic diversity of the European films that it is supposed to define.


  • citizenship; political film-making; immigration; european cinema; popular cinema; frears