World Cinema: Not Just in English

As American moviegoers, we often like to stay in our comfort zone of what is familiar to us as far as our cinema experience goes.

Whether you enjoy action, comedy, or romance, you probably are watching American movies with American slants and messages that are in accordant to mainstream American culture.

So naturally, we have a bias when it comes to viewing something that was made in Hollywood over a movie that was made in Bollywood (India).

Language barriers can also be a turn off because honestly who wants to read during an entire movie?

But sitting down and getting past the subtitles of a foreign film can be beneficial in seeing the world from a different perspective.

It also gives another country a chance to tell their side of the story artistically and world events that you may not have heard in their historical context.

Watching a foreign flick could also give you an appreciation for aesthetics and different filming and editing techniques, as in the chaotic camera movements that symbolize Cuban frustration and struggle in the events leading up to Castro’s revolution in I am Cuba (Soy Cuba), which was ironically shot by Russian Director Mikhail Kalatozov.

Yet, melodramatic films like these can also serve as evidence for propaganda under the guise of “national cinema,” leaving the viewer to question where truth is consistent and where it is stretched in not only foreign films, but those made in the U.S. as well.

But if you’re not in a world cinema class like I am and do not have time to delve into great imported cinema here are a few recommendations:

Photo credit: Anthony Estrada 3 Iron, (Empty House)
Photo credit: Anthony Estrada 3 Iron, (Empty House)

1. 3 Iron (Empty House) (2004), is a Korean romance film about a young man who tapes menus to door knobs and lives in unoccupied dwellings while the owners are gone or are on vacation. American audiences will be glad to know that this is a heavily visual film (Not a lot of subtitles in this one).

2. Stalker (1979) is a Russian science-fiction/quest that follows a “Stalker” (guide) as he leads a writer and a scientist into the “Zone” where a man’s most inner desires can come true.

3.  Rome, Open City (1945), is an Italian war drama that gives insight of Rome during Nazi occupation in 1944.

4.      Red Tent (1969), an Italian/Russian co-production that demonstrates the national pride and attention that surrounded the fatal 1928 Italian expedition to the North Pole. This film was made in Russian, Italian and English and even features Sean Connery (James Bond himself) to entice American moviegoers, though possibly due to Cold War tensions was overlooked.

5.      I Am Cuba (1964), a Russian/Cuban co-production as mentioned above, is about the Cuban revolution against Batista, but also features highly noted long camera shots before cuts are made.  

Though, these movies are influenced by the magic of Hollywood, it is interesting to see how other countries express themselves with the medium. Which can be just as ambitious and entertaining as any American-made film.