If my local multiplex is anything to go by, there is only one language in cinema - and that’s English. Indeed, precious few subtitled, world cinema movies make it anywhere near the big screen.
In February 2016, British Film Institute (BFI)’s Sight & Sound magazine called the performance of foreign language films at cinemas in 2015 a “crushing disappointment”. The reason? Film distributors just don't feel they will get enough bang for their world cinema buck.
This is, without doubt, a travesty. We, the ticket paying audience, are being given a skewed picture of the cinema world and are also being deprived of some truly wonderful film experiences.
For its part, BFI launched The New Release Strategy in 2016. Supported by the nine regional UK Film Hubs, this initiative aims to “expand the reach of titles that may be perceived as ‘challenging’, including foreign language films, ensuring they are seen by more people in more cinemas”.
The first two films to benefit from this scheme were Patricio Guzmán’s Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner, The Pearl Button, and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s best foreign language Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Mustang.
Meanwhile, audiences seeking foreign language films are left to try their luck at a handful of art house cinemas or, of course, venture online. If you hear about an exciting new world cinema movie, it is always worth checking to see if this film is being released online at the same time.
For example, last week, Pablo Trapero’s chilling film, The Clan, was released in cinemas and via Curzon At Home’s video on demand (VOD) service. In addition, at the beginning of September, I was able to watch Mia Hansen-Løve’s superb Things To Come at home on the date of its release.
I am so grateful for this opportunity. I just couldn’t imagine a cinematic life without foreign language films - ten of my recent favourites are listed below.
10 Amazing Foreign Language Films
Michael Haneke's Oscar winning film, Amour, is a devastating tale of lasting love. It tells the story of an elderly couple - Anne and George - whose cultured life is changed forever when Anne suffers a stroke.
Haneke's camera observes Anne's deterioration and George's struggle to care for her. It is a tough, heartbreaking watch. However, Amour is also strangely uplifting. In the midst of despair you witness the human race's phenomenal capacity for love.
9. Our Little Sister
Filled with stunning cinematic landscapes, I fell in love with this gorgeous and warm-hearted film. This movie is a wonderful breath of fresh air, making you feel better just for watching.
Director, Hirokazu Koreeda's, film tells the story of three sisters who, after the death of their estranged father, invite their teenage half-sister, Suzu, to live with them. Suzu's arrival has a deep and lasting impact on each sister.
Mustang is a superb, thought-provoking film about the life of five sisters who, after an innocent game on the beach, are locked away from society and prepared for an arranged marriage. However, these spirited sisters are not about to lose their freedom without a fight.
7. Embrace Of The Serpent
Director, Circo Guerra’s, visually stunning and deeply spiritual film, Embrace Of The Serpent, explores how the ravages of colonialism have cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape.
The movie was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant.
6. The Hunt
The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, is a stunning film, unafraid to ask important questions of our society. Lucas' life as a nursery school assistant falls apart when he is falsely accused of inappropriate conduct by one of his children. Mads Mikkelsen is just superb in this movie.
5. Of Gods And Men
Xavier Beauvois' wonderful film, Of Gods And Men, tells the true story of a group of French monks who, while living in The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine in Algeria, come under threat from Islamist rebel groups.
Their lives at great risk, the monks are told to leave their monastery. However, they are reluctant to abandon their community. Each monk must examine his faith and choose to stay... or leave.
Ida won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2015. It is easy to see why. This is an important, gripping and visually stunning film from director, Paweł Pawlikowski.
In 1960s Poland, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a novice preparing to be a nun.
Before she can take her vows, Anna is encouraged to see her only living relative, her Aunt Wanda.
However, Wanda has shocking news. Anna is Jewish and, before her parents were killed during World War 2, she used to be called Ida. Together, the two women go
on a journey to discover what happened to their family and find out where they belong.
3. A Separation
A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011. This is a wonderful, gem of a film about the breakdown of a marriage, familial responsibility and so much more. I was utterly, on the edge of my seat, gripped by A Separation.
2. Let The Right One In
To save us from the chore of actually reading subtitles, many foreign language films are remade in English. However, these remakes rarely match the atmosphere and quality of the originals. Thomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In is a case in point.
Lonely boy, Oskar, is bullied at school - horribly bullied. When Eli moves into his apartment block, Oskar wonders if she might become a friend. However, Eli warns Oskar that this cannot be - she is not what he think she is and has been 12 for a very, very long time...
1. Pan's Labyrinth
Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is one of my all time most favourite films ever. This fairy tale (for adults) is set in a rural military outpost in post-war Spain where young Ofelia moves with her mother.
Ofelia's new home is full of danger, unimaginable cruelty and repression. She seeks refuge in her books about fairy stories and by wandering the woods nearby. It is here that she discovers a labyrinth, home to a collection of otherworldly, fantastical monsters.
The monsters believe that Ofelia is a princess, long lost to their world and promise her an escape from her miserable surroundings if she can fulfill three important tasks.
What Is Your Favourite Foreign Language Film?
Of course, this list barely scrapes the surface of world cinema (for more subtitled films just click here). However, these ten films have really stayed with me.
What do you think of this list? What is your favourite foreign language film?
Do you wish your local cinema would show more of these movies?
Let me know! Leave me a comment in the box below!