Here are lists of selected films and novels about migration, so far suggested by COMPAS staff and friends, to pique people’s interest.  The films and books range in style, for instance some of the films are documentaries, others purely for entertainment.

All the suggestions are listed because they are migration related, we have not evalutated them or made any subjective comment on quality – that is for you to decide!

These are by no means complete lists but we will try to update them regularly.  Please let us know about other titles you think we should add – Just give us the Title, Director/Author, year of release/publication and if you can, a brief description and we’ll add your name and entry to the list.



America America,  Elia Kazan (1995)
The tale of an impoverished boy’s journey from a village in Turkish Anatolia to Istanbul, his dreams of America and his struggle to get to that country. (Suggested by Ben Tobias)

Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón (2006)
A sci-fi film set in 2027. After almost two decades of human infertility, the world is on the brink of collapse. The UK has the only functioning government and has therefore been inundated with immigrants seeking refuge from raging wars and collapsing states.   It responds by becoming a militarised state and imposing oppressive immigration laws on refugees in order to maintain control.  (Suggested by Ali Rogers)

24 City (Er shi si cheng ji),  Jia Zhang-Ke (2008)
Documentary/drama about the former workers of state-owned factory 420 which is being turned into a luxury apartment complex known as ’24 City’. The director interviews 3 generations of the migrant factory workers (some real, some performed by actors), highlighting the extraordinary changes taking place in China.  (Suggested by Mikal Mast)

Dirty Pretty Things, Stephen Frears (2002)
A film set in a West London hotel staffed by immigrants, both legal and illegal. The central characters are Okwe, a Nigerian Doctor who was forced to flee Nigeria in fear of his life and Senay, a Turkish Muslim who works at the hotel as a cleaner, with a visa but without the right to work.  An immigration officials discover their whereabouts and they are forced to consider criminal activities in order to survive.  (Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

District 9, Neill Blomkamp (2009)
A sci-fi film, set in an alternative present about xenophobia and social segregation. A spacecraft dominates the skies over Johannesburg and is found with a population of sick aliens nicknamed “prawns”.  After initial welcomes, the South African government decides to move them on to a government camp, District 9.  (Suggested by Ali Rogers)

Fear Eats the Soul, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974)
A film about the romantic relationship between a German woman in her sixties and a much younger Moroccan ‘guestworker’,  and prejudices and discrimination surrounding immigrants in Germany.   (Suggested by Bridget Anderson)

Frozen River, Courtney Huntis (2008)
An American crime drama about two working-class women who smuggle illegal immigrants from Canada to the United States in the trunk of a car in order to make ends meet.   (Suggested by Bridget Anderson)

Ghosts, Nick Broomfield (2006)
Without hope of work at home in China, the main character in this film, Ai Qin uses a “snakehead” gang to enter Europe illegally, in return for a deposit of $5,000 (and an obligatory loan of $20,000). The film follows her journey through various experiences of exploitation and her ultimate dependence on a ‘gangmaster’.  Based on the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster.  (Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

Godfather Part 2, Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
‘The continuing saga of the Corleone family as they move to Nevada and make the casino business their major income source under the leadership of the increasingly paranoid and malevolent Michael, whose reign as the “Don” is juxtaposed against the parallel tale of his father’s escape from Sicily as a young boy and his subsequent rise to power in New York’s Lower East Side during the turn-of-the-century.’ (Description from IMDb)  (Suggested by Ben Tobias)

The Grapes of Wrath, John Ford (1940)
Adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel of dirt-poor Dust Bowl migrants starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who opens the movie returning to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter.  (Suggested by Ben Tobias)

Head On (Gegen die Wand)  Fatih Akin (2004)
A film about Turkish migrants living in Germany. 40-something widower Cahit has taken to drink and survives a semi-intentional car crash. While in hospital he meets Sibel, the 20-something daughter of ultra-traditional parents who has tried to commit suicide. She asks Cahit to marry her so she can escape her family. A relationship evolves.  (Suggested by Mikal Mast)

The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin (1917)’Charlie is an immigrant who endures a challenging voyage and gets into trouble as soon as he arrives in America.’ (Description from IMDb) (Suggested by Ben Tobias)

The Immigrant, James Grey (2013)
In 1920, two girls (Ewa and Magda Cybulski) migrate from Poland to New York in search of a better life.  On arrival at Ellis Island, Magda is quarantined because of illness and seperated from her sister. Attempting to get back to her sister and with no one else to turn to Eva ends up in prostitution. (Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

Import/Export, Ulrich Seidl (2007)
A downbeat social drama following the lives of the European underclass: a Ukrainian sex worker who heads west in search of a better life, and an Austrian trainee security guard who, after being severely beaten by a gang of youths, takes on work delivering poker and gum ball machines through Eastern Europe. (Suggested by Mikal Mast)

In This World, Michael Winterbottom (2002)
Docudrama.  ‘The film follows two young Afghan refugees, Jamal Udin Torabi and Enayatullah, as they leave a refugee camp in Pakistan for a better life in London. Since their journey is illegal, it is fraught with danger, and they must use back-channels, bribes, and smugglers to achieve their goal. The film won the Golden Bear prize at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival.’ (Description from Wikipedia)   (Suggested by Mette Berg)

Last Resort, Paweł Pawlikowski (2000)
BAFTA-winner. ‘A young Russian woman and her son arrive in London, expecting to be met by her fiancé. When he does not arrive, they claim asylum, and are confined to a small seaside town while their claim is considered.  A relationship develops between the woman and the manager of a local amusement arcade (played by Paddy Considine).’ (Description from Wikipedia)  (Suggested by Sophie Martin)

Last Train Home, Lixin Fan (2009), Documentary
 ‘Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as 130 million migrant workers travel back to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This exodus is the world’s largest human migration, an epic spectacle that exposes a nation tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future…. Last Train Home examines one fractured family to shed light on the human cost of China’s ascendence as an economic superpower.’ (Description from Wikipedia)   (Suggested by Mette Berg)

Le Havre, Aki Kaurismäki (2011)
A warmhearted drama about a bohemian shoeshiner who takes in a young African refugee. With the collusion of his community he helps the boy evade immigration officials so that he can continue on his journey to join relatives in England.  (Suggested by Mikal Mast)

Migrant Express, Mumin Shakirov (2009), Documentary
‘Thousands of migrants travel from Tajikistan to Russia each year in search of work. For many, the trip begins with a gruelling four-day train journey from Dushanbe to Moscow, during which they endure police inspections, cramped quarters, and brutal heat. RFE/RL correspondents Mumin Shakirov and Alexander Kulygin travelled with a group of Tajik migrants on one such journey…recording the stories, hopes, and fears of four people seeking work in Russia.’  (Description from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)  Watch it here:    (Suggested by Mette Berg)

Shun Li and the Poet (Io sono Li), Andrea Segre (2012)
Lyrical drama about a 30-something single mother from China working for a Chinese employment agency in a seaside village in Italy. She is trying to raise money to bring her son to join her in Italy. In the meanwhile she is befriended by a long term Eastern European migrant, causing tensions among the village natives and among her employers, who are equally suspicious of the motives of both sides.  (Suggested by Mikal Mast)

Stop-over, Kaveh Bakhtiari  (2013), Documentary
The film focuses on a group of Iranian men and one woman, all undocumented immigrants, holed up in Athens as each of them attempt to cross the border further north for better opportunities. Bakhtiari captures the sense of solidarity and occasional animosity among these resourceful migrants. This is a  melancholy and quietly angry film about the desperate extremes to which Iranians will go to break into Fortress Europe for decent employment opportunities.   (Suggested by Mette Berg)

Touki bouki, Djibril Diop Mambéty (1973)
Senegal. Mory, an African cowherd and Anta, a student, dream of going to Paris.  They finally manage to buy tickets for the trip to France, but when Anta boards the boat in the Port of Dakar, Mory, poised on the gangplank behind her, is suddenly seized by an inability to leave his roots.  (Suggested by Bridget Anderson)

Yasmin, Kenneth Gleenan (2004)
A drama about Yasmin, a young woman of Pakistani descent living in the north of England. To please her widowed father, Yasmin agrees to marry a cousin ‘from home’. The omens are not good when the goatherder from a Pakistani village meets the sparky, westernised Yasmin. But her confidence begins to evaporate after 9/11 when her husband is arrested under the anti-terror laws, and she experiences abuse at work. The film is based on six months of research in Asian communities in Pennine mill towns.  (Suggested by Mette Berg)



Antigona and Me, Kate Clanchy (2009)
One morning in London, two neighbours start to chat over the heads of their children. Kate Clanchy is a writer, privileged and sheltered, Antigona is a refugee from Kosovo. On instinct, Kate offers Antigona a job as a nanny, and Antigona, equally shrewdly, accepts. Over the next five years and a thousand cups of coffee Antigona’s extraordinary story slowly emerges. She has escaped from a war, she has divorced a violent husband, but can she escape the harsh code she was brought up with, the Kanun of Lek? At the kitchen table where anything can be said, the women discover they have everything, as well as nothing, in common. (Description from Pan Macmillan bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

In an Antique Land, Amitav Ghosh (1992)
In an Antique Land is a subversive history in the guise of a traveller’s tale. When the author stumbles across a slave narrative in the margins of an ancient text, his curiosity is piqued. What follows is a ten year search, which brings author and slave together across 800 hundred years of colonial history. Bursting with anecdote and exuberant detail, it offers a magical, intimate biography of the private life of a country, Egypt, from the Crusades to Operation Desert Storm. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

Black Orchids, Gillian Slovo (2008)
When the genteely impoverished and rebellious Evelyn marries the charming Emil, scion of a privileged Sinhalese family, she thinks that her dream of a life in England can now at last come true. So the family travel, with their young son Milton, from Ceylon to Tilbury Docks. But this is England in the 1950s and, no matter how hard Evelyn wishes that it would, England does not take kindly to strangers, especially families who are half black and half white. A profound and moving novel, this is the story about the search to feel at home in your own skin. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

Bluebird: A Memoir, Vesna Maric (2009)
Vesna Maric left Bosnia the beginning of the war, at the age of 16, on a convoy of coaches carrying refugees to Penrith, in the north of England. “Bluebird” is Vesna’s memoir of the experience, from the beginning of the war through to her eventual return to Bosnia, years later. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

Brick Lane, Monica Ali (2003)
Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed man who is twenty years older. Away from the mud and heat of her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London’s East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband. But unlike him she is practical and wise, and befriends a fellow Asian girl Razia, who helps her understand the strange ways of her adopted new British home. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (2007)
A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican family in New Jersey, Oscar’s sweet but disastrously overweight. He dreams of becoming the next J. R. R. Tolkien and he keeps falling hopelessly in love. With dazzling energy and insight Díaz immerses us in the tumultuous lives of Oscar; his runaway sister Lola; their beautiful mother Belicia; and in the family’s uproarious journey from the Dominican Republic to the US and back. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

Capital, John Lanchester (2012)
At forty, Roger Yount is blessed with an expensively groomed wife, two small sons and a powerful job in the City. An annual bonus of a million might seem excessive, but with second homes and nannies to maintain, he’s not sure he can get by without it. Elsewhere in the Capital, Zbigniew has come from Warsaw to indulge the super-rich in their interior decoration whims. Freddy Kano, teenage football sensation, has left a two-room shack in Senegal to follow his dream. Traffic warden Quentina has exchanged the violence of the police in Zimbabwe for the violence of the enraged middle classes. For them all, this city offers the chance of a different kind of life. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat (1998)
It is 1937 and Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastian, a cane worker, are deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle’s  world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence, driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and Sebastian are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely remembers. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie (1999)
Vina Apsara, a famous and much-loved singer, is caught up in a devastating earthquake and never seen again. This is her story, and that of Ormus Cama, the lover who finds, loses, seeks and again finds her, over and over, throughout his own extraordinary life in music. Set in the inspiring, vain, fabulous world of rock’n’roll, this is the story of a love that stretches across continents, across Vina and Ormus’s whole lives, and even beyond death. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters’ futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers’ advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives – until their own inner crises reveal how much they’ve unknowingly inherited of their mothers’ pasts. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

The Long Song, Andrea Levy (2010)
“July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.” (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Mette Berg)

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini (2013)
Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

Netherland, Joseph ONeil (2008)
In early 2006, Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal. In London, a Dutch banker named Hans van den Broek hears the news, and remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck and the off-kilter New York in which it flourished: the New York of 9/11, the powercut and the Iraq war. Lost in a country he’d regarded as his new home, Hans sought comfort in a most alien place – the thriving but almost invisible world of New York cricket, in which immigrants from Asia and the West Indies play a beautiful, mystifying game on the city’s most marginal parks. (Description from Amazon bookpage. by Ali Rogers)

Open City, Teju Cole (2012)
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. Though he is navigating the busy parts of town, the impression of countless faces does nothing to assuage his feelings of isolation. But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey-which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Ali Rogers)

Persepolis I; Persepolis II (graphic novels), Marjane Satrapi (2000)
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. (Description from Wikipedia. Suggested by Mette Berg)

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka (2005)
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth. But the sisters’ campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe’s darkest history and sends them back to roots they’d much rather forget … (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

Small Island, Andrea Levy (2004)
It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was… (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)

White Teeth, Zadie Smith (2000)
At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. (Description from Amazon bookpage. Suggested by Emma Newcombe)