Reimagining Migration and White “Western” Masculinities in Baltic Cinema

Liina-Ly Roos


Recent Baltic films about migration have revisited and reimagined the recurring cinematic trope of a victimized Baltic/Eastern European woman who is seeking a better life in the Nordic region (and Western Europe more broadly). This talk focuses on two such films, Jaak Kilmi’s The Dissidents (Sangarid, 2017, Estonia) and Romas Zabarauskas’s The Lawyer (Advokatas, 2020, Lithuania) that provide a different kind of engagement with migration, whiteness, gender, and sexuality in the Baltic countries as they were moving away from the “post-Soviet” and realigned themselves with Northern and Western Europeanness, often claiming Nordic identity. As Professor Roos demonstrates in this talk, both films explore what this realignment might mean through different ways of performing what the characters understand to be “Western” masculinity. Kilmi’s The Dissidents imagines an Estonian man who can, after escaping Soviet Estonia to Sweden, relatively easily pass as a white Swede and who eventually performs white Swedishness. Zabarauskas’s The Lawyer, on the other hand, queers the Baltic man who has become both Western and white, as it imagines an alternative to the heterosexual masculine nationalism in the Baltic societies, to the victimizing Western European/Nordic gaze towards people in the Baltics, and to the common ways of making films about refugees. Her talk will analyze these films closely and situate them in the new cinematic engagements with colonial/racial histories, gender politics, and white privilege in both Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Speaker: Liina-Ly RoosAssistant Professor, NordicUniversity of Wisconsin – Madison

Zachary Kelly,

Disability Access and Compliance,, 510-643-6456