Doctoral Students

Etienne Kallos
Started in

Research summary


Mass migration and the experience of un-belonging characterize the 20th and 21st centuries. Children from diasporic cultures come of age in places different from their ancestors, speak different languages to their familial tongue and follow adopted traditions. Born into the ambiguity and shame of outsider status and displacement, they work to assimilate into host nations while listening to familial elders share fragmented recollections of an idealized ancestral homeland they will never experience.

This research project asks if it is possible to encounter, express, and classify the experience of inter-generational diaspora through the discovery of cinematic forms shaped by a discourse inter-relating postcolonial and film theory. The aim is to give voice to the experience of three groups of peoples entangled by the long-term trauma of forced dispersion:

  • People who have migrated or been forced to leave their homeland, with a focus on subsequent descendants born into host nations
  • People ‘left behind’ in ancestral lands when members of their family migrate, of which women and children are the majority
  • Indigenous peoples who have in turn been disrupted by diasporic cultures who arrive and impose themselves into ancestral lands that are not their own

Two contemporary contexts shaped by un-belonging are explored: the Greek-minority culture of Pogon, southern Albania, and the Nama Peoples of Namaqualand in South Africa. In each case, the methodology is shaped by field research, active listening practice, experiments in story and cinema forms, and artistic collaborations with people embedded in place. Traditional overarching story structures and classical western storytelling forms that champion colonial notions of exceptionalism, agency, and objectification are problematized.

Working from the premise that diasporic stories hover outside of official histories and between languages, the central question emerges: Could an emergent Cinema of Un-Belonging discover forms of narrative time relevant to the long-term, inter-generational fractures caused by forced traumatic dispersion? In doing so, could these new cinematic forms further classify and transform not only the discourse around —but the experience of— contemporary diaspora?



Etienne Kallos (1972, SA) is a Greek filmmaker from South Africa who studied theater in South Africa before attending the graduate film program at NYU in New York. His nonfiction and fiction works explore issues around coming-of-age and the loss of a sense of place within contemporary diasporic experience.

In 2009 Kallos won the Golden Lion for ‘best short film’ for his 30-minute Afrikaans-language film ‘Firstborn’ at the Venice Film Festival. In 2018 his 98-minute Afrikaans-language film ‘The Harvesters’ premiered at Cannes’ ‘Un Certain Regard’. Other festivals include Sundance – where he won the Sundance/Mahindra ‘Global Filmmaker Award’ – Berlin, Thessaloniki, Telluride, and Rome, where he won a ‘Best First Feature Film’ award.

Support for Kallos’s work includes 'Eurimages', 'the Greek Film Center', the 'Cannes Residence' program, and the 'CNC World Cinema Support Fund'. He has taught screenwriting and film directing at the California College of Arts in San Francisco and New York University.


Individual projects