Staying inside during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, but watching movies online through a host of streaming services has been a welcome distraction to our mounting boredom.
But perhaps you’ve caught up with all the latest releases in Indian cinema, from Gulabo Sitabo to Ponmagal Vandhal. And you’ve finally finished those pending Hollywood classics you’ve always wanted to watch, like the Godfather trilogy or every Avengers movie in order of release. Fear not, because there’s much more to see.
Indian cinema and Hollywood films in English generally dominate pop culture in our country, but there’s a wide range of films from international filmmakers that are finally getting the attention they deserve.
TNM has put together a list of films from international filmmakers to stream on your next movie night.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
France, Amazon Prime
Céline Sciamma’s breathtaking film was widely acclaimed when it released last year. Set in 18th century France, the story follows the clandestine relationship between Marianne, an artist, and Héloïse, played by Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel respectively. Marianna has been commissioned to paint Héloïse's portrait, before Héloïse's upcoming union to a man she does not wish to marry. The female gaze takes centre stage as passion, love and longing swirl and evolve between the two women. Its impact from start to finish is unforgettable.
South Korea, Amazon Prime
Parasite is likely to be the most famous film on the list, after it grabbed the spotlight at this year’s Academy Awards. The film not only won Oscars for Best International Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho, but it also became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture. The story follows two families, one wealthy and the other destitute, as their lives collide into a thrilling genre-bending ride that highlights class warfare and the lines we draw between the haves and have-nots.
South Korea, Netflix
Lee Chang-dong’s smouldering psychological thriller premiered in 2018, and remains a favourite for movie lovers. Based on a short story by author Haruki Murakami, the film follows a young man, Jongsu, and his encounters with a childhood friend Haemi and another man, Ben. The suspenseful storyline winds its way through their lives, and ultimately leaves you grappling with notions of class divides and physical vulnerability.
A family in Tokyo is living in poverty while scraping by to make ends meet, when an unexpected visitor becomes the latest addition to the family. Shoplifters is a beautiful portrait of a family’s life and how the ties that bind you together need not be biological. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda also wrote the screenplay for the film, which debuted to wide acclaim in 2018.
Castle in the Sky
Anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have created some of the most beloved and celebrated animated films in modern history, including Spirited Away in 2001 or Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004. But before that, their first animated film was Castle in the Sky, written and directed by Miyazaki. Sheeta and Pazu are two young children in search of Laputa, a mysterious island that floats in the clouds, all while being chased by villainous agents seeking to steal an amulet held by Sheeta. If you’re looking for an introduction to Japanese anime, Castle in the Sky is an excellent place to start.
Iran, Amazon Prime
Asghar Farhadi’s celebrated drama follows a couple in Iran who seek to separate, and the effect of that dispute on their family members, both young and old. It offers a glimpse into life in Iran, and tackles questions of justice and religion. The film was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, becoming the first Iranian film to achieve the feat.
The supernatural, romance and the decisions people are forced to make intertwine in Mati Diop’s directorial debut. Set in Dakar, Senegal, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the film dives into themes surrounding migration, capitalism and a loss of love, through a ghostly lens. Wolof and French are primary languages spoken in the film.
In Paris, two young friends, Dounia and Maimouna, spend their days hustling to make a buck, while dreaming of a bigger and better life than what they’ve been handed. Dounia’s world is further turned upside down while she meets Djigui, a dancer at a local theatre. This is French director Houda Benyamina’s directorial debut, and it was awarded the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2016.
Lebanon, Amazon Prime
Told in the form of flashback, the story follows a 12-year-old boy named Zain El Hajj from Beirut, who is imprisoned at the start of the film. It then goes back in time, several months prior to the arrest, to focus on Zain’s journey to that moment. Directed by Nadine Labaki, the movie is reportedly the highest-grossing Arabic film ever, and became a major hit when released in 2018.
Released in 2006, Pan’s Labyrinth remains a classic for cinema lovers, a fantastical journey that offers a collision between real and mythical worlds to stunning effect. Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed the feature that follows 10-year-old Ofelia and a mysterious faun in an Alice in Wonderland-like world.
A Twelve-Year Night
The Spanish film from director Álvaro Brechner takes its title from the military dictatorship that ruled over Uruguay for 12 years from 1973 to 1985. Three men become the focus on the film, each facing torture and imprisonment under the regime. One of the men, José Mujica, in reality, would go on to be the president of Uruguay in 2010.
Roma, which was lauded when it released in 2018 and received numerous accolades, is said to be a near-autobiographical story of director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico City. An indigenous woman works as a maid for a wealthy family in the neighborhood of Colonial Roma, and the story depicts her relationship with the children she cares for, under the backdrop of political turmoil in the 1970s. The film was awarded Best International Film as well as Best Director for Cuarón.