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When the acclaimed South Korean director, Bong Joon-ho, won the Golden Globes for -Parasite, he said, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles. You will be introduced to so many more amazing movies.” He was right.
Movies open worlds for us, and foreign movies open even bigger, more vibrant worlds. With OTT sites and a large number of foreign-language movies being screened in different parts of the world today, you can watch and be inspired by movies in any language. In recent times, we have been lucky enough to see some truly incredible works from around the world. In no order, here’s our pick of the top foreign-language films that have transformed international cinema that you will love.
This one is no surprise to anyone. A Separation (2011), directed by Asghar Farhadi, is an Iranian drama film that follows a couple who is going through a divorce and the subsequent custody battle over their daughter. The movie takes us in unexpected directions as more motivations and conflicts are thrown in. The stellar acting of Sareh Bayat, Payman Maadi, Leila Hatami, and Shahab Hosseini, and the incredibly moving plot have us feeling for all the characters. There are no winners or losers in real life; we are all products of our circumstances.
Sarina Farhadi, who is the director’s daughter, also plays a very important role in A Separation! The movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012 and is widely regarded as one of the best Iranian movies of all time.
If you love different mediums of art mixing, the multi-lingual film, Drive My Car, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, will be a huge treat! The movie is a very interesting adaption of the famous Russian Checkov play Uncle Vanya. Interestingly, the play itself becomes a central character in the film. It follows a grieving widower (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a theatre artist who develops an offbeat relationship with his driver. The cinematography and dialogue are spectacular, and the nuanced performances by the actors explore grief and loss in very compelling ways.
Moothon is a Malayalam-language movie directed by Geetu Mohandas. The film follows young Mulla, who runs away from home in Lakshadweep to Mumbai in search of their elder brother. Filled to the brim with spectacular, sweeping shots of the Lakshwadeep oceanfront, Moothon is a movie that was critically acclaimed for its themes of identity, sexuality and family. Nivin Pauly, Roshan Mathews, Sobhita Dhulipala, Shashank Arora, and Sanjana Dipu put up a performance of a lifetime in Moothon!
If you ever thought you need colour to make an incredibly realistic, visually stunning film, Roma, the 2018 Mexican movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón, will prove you wrong. The film is a semi-autobiographical account of Cuarón's childhood in Mexico City and follows the life of a young domestic worker, Cleo. Filled with beautiful indoor and outdoor shots of the city and the house, Roma will surely tug at your heartstrings and make you marvel.
The movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2019 and has been praised for its stunning black-and-white cinematography and heartfelt performances.
If you want a heart-warming, poignant story in a different language that you could watch with your kids, Persepolis, based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name and designed by Marc Jousset, is the way to go. The animated movie takes us through the lives and thoughts of young, rebellious yet tender Marjane in a war-torn Iran in the 70s. It is as laugh-out-loud funny as it is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. We’re taken into the innermost thoughts of Marjane, which is a great exploration of a young girl’s life, identity, religion, etc., in a politically volatile Iran. Persepolis can be watched in Persian, French, German, or English.
Force Majeure is a 2014 Swedish movie directed by Ruben Östlund. The film follows a family on a skiing vacation in the French Alps and their life after a near-death experience caused by an avalanche. Robert Östlund is a director known for making comedically grim movies that reveal the true nature of human selfishness and vices. The movie explores themes of masculinity, family dynamics, and human behaviour when under pressure. It is, by no means, an easy watch, but it is intriguing and worth your time!
We hope that this list of fabulous movies takes away any reservations you might have about watching foreign-language movies. Like Joon-ho commented, through the help of subtitles, whole new doors into different cultures and stories open up in front of us, inspiring and changing the movie-watching culture for good. The next time you’re racking your brain for a watch on movie night, why don’t you try one of these?
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