Have You Seen These Five International Films?
To be completely clear, “movies that should be pushed to the West” does not mean be remade or reshot in English or with western born actors. Although a few adaptations of lesser-known movies have hit it big in the West (The Departed 2006/ Internal Affairs 2002 Hong Kong), here, the main focus is to try to bring non-Hollywood films into the forefront of movie media. These five films are all of varying popularity and acclaim in Hollywood, with Druk even earning an Academy Award Nomination for Best International Feature. What makes them unique, though, is that they are not at the front of most casual moviegoers’ minds when we think of films that are “must watches”. We often only look at the blockbusters, or what has the biggest billboards or best marketing. Hopefully, these five films can help to jumpstart a further interest in international movies because there is a lot of really good filmmaking to see.
Unfortunately, these first two movies are unable to be streamed anywhere at the moment, but their inclusion was still needed because the films are good and they are important. Hopefully, there is a chance that this article can help raise awareness to get these films onto the screens of more viewers.
Pari 2020 (dir. Siamak Etemadi)
Directed amid the economic crisis in Greece and the economic turmoil in Europe as a whole, this movie presents an honest representation of the current state of Greece and Europe regarding immigration and financial conflict. Greece is widely known for its pristine beaches or for its bottomless contributions to modern Western society, but in modern times, it’s not the social and philosophical hub it once was. Greece is still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, and a strong population of people there blamed their economic woes on immigration. Pari is about an Iranian mother in Greece searching for her lost son, who she sent to Greece for a better education. The film not only shows the chaotic state in which Greece currently stands but also follows a mother searching for her son and learning about her son and herself. It is a deeply moving odyssey for one’s own child and identity and shows West and East’s clashing cultures. It is a film that many Hollywood audiences would greatly benefit from watching.
Sarmako, a Tale of the North 2020 (dir. Marco Papadopoulos)
Set shortly after the Greek Civil War, this film deals with the harsh realities that followed directly after that war and still plague modern-day Greece. It is centered around the anger that working-class people have at not having enough to survive after the war, so they turn this anger outward and against the “other,” in this case, immigrants from Turkey. The main character Antonis’ Turkish parents are brutally murdered after being blamed for the community’s plight. After the Greek Civil War, this violence and hatred was turned towards Turkish people and now turned towards people from Africa and the Middle East. In America today, we see people who blame “others,” such as immigrants or members of the LGBTQ community, for crimes and societal issues, and these people suffer violence and vitriol because of it. There is a direct correlation between this film’s events and the events happening in America today, which is why it is an important film that should be pushed West.
5. Serbuan maut 2011 (The Raid) [dir. Gareth Evans]
If you at all consider yourself an action fan, you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not seen The Raid. Directed by Gareth Evans and released in 2011, The Raid follows a group of police officers raiding an apartment block in Jakarta run by a dangerous gangster, Tama, played by Ray Sahetapy. This movie is full throttle from beginning to end, featuring everything an action fan would love; loud gunfights, corrupt cops, dangerous gangsters, and anime-level hand-to-hand combat scenes led by action legend Iko Uwais. There is no movie like The Raid (well, except for The Raid 2), and if you hunger for a little bit of violence, I don’t think there is a better movie to satiate that hunger. Surprisingly, The Raid only made $9.3 million upon release domestically because Western moviegoers love their violence. Despite its low box office numbers, this movie is still a must-watch and is an action classic.
Stream Serbuan Maut [The Raid] on Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, or Google Play.
4. 살인의 추억 2003 (Memories of Murder) [dir. Bong Jo Hoon]
If you’ve sunk your teeth into crime thrillers in the past, you’ve no doubt come across movies like Seven, Prisoners, or Mystic River. If you enjoyed those films about the chase into the darkness to find unimaginable evil, look no further than Bong Jo Hoon’s 2003 film, Memories of Murder. After a series of murders rock a small province in South Korea, a small task force is formed to catch a killer that the people of South Korea have never experienced before. The combination of acting and storytelling, led by Parasite star Song Kang-ho, creates a movie that leaves you on the edge of your seat and quite literally never lets you off, even after the devastating final shot. It is a movie where you just know what will happen, but then it doesn’t. Bong Jo Hoon has proven himself to be one of the directors of his time in recent years, but 20 years ago, he had already submitted his name into consideration with Memories of Murder. When it was released in 2003, it made only $1.2 million worldwide, so it’s an understatement to say that it has slipped through the cracks. With Bong Jo Hoon’s recent successes, it is slowly starting to get the shine it deserves. It is a film that is dripping with the fear and dread that captivated the real people of Gyunggi Province in 1986 when these murders actually took place. Do not waste another second not watching this film.
Stream Memories of Murder on Amazon, YouTube, or Apple TV+.
Jagten 2012 (The Hunt) [dir. Thomas Vinterberg]
From the director of Another Round comes The Hunt, which starts off as a quiet little movie about a kindergarten teacher, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who is in a custody battle with his ex-wife over their teenage son. After a lie about him spreads through the kindergarten and then through his small Danish town, Lucas’ life unravels as he goes from a well-respected and liked man to a pariah. This film only made $687,185 USD in the United States during its release in 2012. This turnout is criminal, as this is one of the toughest and most heartbreaking watches out there, and Mads Mikkelsen turns in one of the best performances of his career. It is a phenomenal movie with an ending that will have the audience thinking about it long after the credits have rolled.
Stream Jagten (The Hunt) on Prime Video.
2. Funny Games 1997 (dir. Michael Haneke)
This is a bit of a weird one. Funny Games has been remade by its original Austrian director Michael Haneke in 2007 with a more Hollywood-friendly cast, including Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. The film itself is really a shot-for-shot remake of the 1997 Austrian-made film, but it is set in America this time. Haneke stated that he always wanted the film to be in America, but he had to make the first one in Austria. The 1997 Austrian version is included in this list due to the strength in acting and the pure fear and creepiness you experience from Arno Frisch, who plays the main villain, Paul. With no disrespect intended to Michael Pitt, who is wonderful in Gus Van Zant’s Last Days, Arno Frisch brings such villainy and cruelty to the role that Pitt could not match. The disgusting and vile nature of the film is led through Frisch’s performance, and for those who haven’t seen the original and are interested in psychological horror, Funny Games is a definite must-watch.
Find Funny Games on Max.
1. Druk 2020 (Another Round) [dir. Thomas Vinterberg]
Another movie from Thomas Vinterberg to make it on this list is Another Round. This movie is included here due to its low box office release numbers in the US $44,205, and its release during a global pandemic further hindered its ability to reach a larger audience. This movie again stars Mads Mikkelsen in the leading role as a teacher who decides with his friends to start drinking every single day and see if the buzz can help them with their daily life. Obviously, you can see how this could go wrong. It’s a lot lighter than VInterberg and Mikkelsen’s previous collaboration but still holds some dark undertones and themes that drama fans in the US would love. It also makes the audience look inward at their lives and relationships, and choices, especially relationships with alcohol.
Stream Another Round on Hulu Plus or on Prime Video.
Druk (Another Round) (2020) Official Studio Canal UK Trailer
|Leonard studied English at Loyola Marymount University where his short story "Hero in Blue" was published in the 2022 edition of LA Miscellany. He hopes to one day write and direct his own feature films.|