Photo: ‘The Sea Inside’
It’s Not Just Reading
Deciding what movie to watch on a Friday night after a long week of work can be tricky. Comedy? Drama? In the mood to get scared? Flipping through the tabs of streaming services, there are an overwhelming amount of choices. After hovering over a tab that looks interesting, some people notice that it isn’t in English. They then click off it to find something else. The perception of “I don’t feel like reading” is a sad excuse for not turning on the international film. Great watching opportunities were missed because of the hesitation to not want to glance at the dialogue. It may sound silly, but it shouldn’t be thought of as reading. When you’re driving down the street and see the traffic signs and road signs, it’s not like picking up a book and reading. It’s letting the person know what’s going on and where they are heading. The subtitles are an aide to the main visual action that is simultaneously occurring on screen.
It only takes one film to get used to subtitles throughout a film. Even in Hollywood films, there are moments where subtitles are used because the characters may be visiting a different country or mouthing something to a person across the room. The main point is that subtitles are not a new thing and it doesn’t take much effort to read and watch at the same time.
Break Out of Hollywood
It isn’t news that Hollywood is the heart of the film industry. People fleeing their hometowns to try to make it big in Los Angles and be up on the big screen. It’s true that entertainment is constantly getting pumped out of the city and many cities across the country, but it’s easy to forget there are other countries’ own versions of Hollywood. Though not as prominent, international cinema creates sometimes even more content than Hollywood and phenomenal content, to say the least. Looking into other country’s cinema, like France, Korea, Japan, or India; there is so much to explore. Not only the cultural differences that are displayed but how they tell a story. Bollywood is known for its bright colors and fast-paced musical numbers, while France isn’t afraid to show the human body and tell a story slowly. There isn’t a cookie-cutter way of making a movie that Hollywood invented, so exploring what is outside La La Land can be life-changing.
These films are great starters for anyone looking to try something new and delve into international cinema.
Everyone knows this was to be expected and has to be on the top of the list. A multiple academy award winner including Best Picture and Best Director in 2019, Bong Joon-Ho wrote and directed this drama thriller with the perfect amount of comedy. With one of the most shocking plot twists in recent history, ‘Parasite’ was a box office hit around the world. An international film from South Korea that perfectly shows the class struggle in an entertaining way. Following a low-class family that takes interest in an upscale family and slowly infiltrates until an unexplainable event occurs. This film has been an eye-opener for many people and is the first non-English film they’ve ever seen and have zero regrets! Still ranked number one on Letterboxd top 250 rated narratives with an average of 4.5 stars!
Available for streaming on Hulu.
If horror is up your alley, then this film is the best introduction to international films. This Sundance selection directed by Julia Ducournau horrified fans in theaters. ‘Raw’ is a French film that follows a first-year vet student whose whole family are vets and vegetarians. During her first week of intense hazing, she must eat raw meat to show her loyalty. After the intense meal, she begins to learn new things about herself that she never thought was possible. French cinema is known for taking things too far and this film wins with disturbing scenes. As a huge horror fan myself, I had to look away during a specific scene, but an overall thrilling watch.
Available for streaming on Tubi.
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‘La Haine’ (1995)
Translating to hatred, ‘La Haine’ is a hard-hitting drama that is still extremely relatable today. Another French film directed by Mathieu Kassovitz takes place in Paris. This black and white film was the first international film that I have ever seen and it is the reason I fell in love with non-English films. After an intense night of rioting, a group of friends are waiting for news after one of their friends were injured after confronting the police. There isn’t a better time to watch this and again shows that police brutality is a problem across many countries. From the start of the film, it hooks the viewer in and keeps them on their toes.
Available to stream on Amazon.
‘Spirited Away’ (2001)
Now, this selection is not live-action, but one of the most popular anime films. For people who are not big fans of the anime genre, this is not only the perfect introduction to the world of anime but also a good opportunity to have subtitles. Since that it is an animation, there are English dubbed versions of the film, but it is a more authentic experience to watch it how it was intended in Japanese. Famous anime director Hayao Miyazaki has an impressive reel, ‘Spirited Away’ being the most popular. Telling the story of a young girl who becomes trapped in a new world where her parents are transformed into animals and she must dive into the world to free them. A definite watch and easy transition to international cinema.
Available to stream on HBO Max.
‘The Sea Inside’ (2004)
Based on the true story of Ramón Sampedro, a seaman who became quadriplegic after a devastating diving accident at the young age of 25. He spent the rest of his life fighting for his right to have an assisted suicide. ‘The Sea Inside’ directed by Alejandro Amenabar and stars Javier Bardem, a heartbreaking portrayal of this moving story. Taking place in Spain, this film is completely in Spanish making it stick more closely with the true story. There are many times where it almost feels confusing that characters are speaking English and not their native language, but this story is crucial to be heard and told in Spanish. A tear-jerker, but beautifully told of an issue that is not discussed enough.
Available to stream on Amazon.
There is an overwhelming amount of content on streaming services across all the platforms, but don’t skip the international films! Only recognizing international films because they were nominated for an Oscar doesn’t cut it anymore. If interested in a film and seeing that it isn’t in English shouldn’t stop anyone from putting it on. Too many missed opportunities to discover new directors, actors, and writers. These films listed above are only the beginning of a wonderful world of international cinema.
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.