The Deterritorialised Muslim Convert in Post-Communist Eastern European Cinema


This article analyses the Muslim convert as portrayed in three post-communist Eastern European films: Vladimir Khotinenko’s A Moslem (Мусульманин, Russia, 1996), Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing (Poland/Norway/ Ireland/Hungary/France, 2010), and Sulev Keedus’s Letters to Angel (Kirjad Inglile, Estonia, 2011). Although set in different periods, the films have their origins in Afghanistan and then move to European countries. The conversion to Islam happens in connection to, or as a consequence of, different military conflicts that the country has seen. The authors examine the consequences the characters have on their environment, using Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of deterritorialisation, understood as an opportunity to produce political and cultural change. Resettling from one religion and place into another means breaking up structures that need to be reassembled differently. However, these three films seem to desire deterritorialisation and resettlement for different reasons. In A Moslem, national structures need to be reset since foreign Western values have corrupted the post-communist Russian rural society. In Essential Killing, it is the Western military system of oppression that cannot uphold the convert and his values. Lastly, in Letters to Angel, the convert exposes the hollowness of post-communist capitalism. The Muslim converts in these films are subtle reminders that we can all reinvent ourselves.

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