Every year, more and more popular movies are released and watched … in English, but what about the rest of the world. Surely, there are more movies out there than just English language films. 

There are, and more films in English that you may not have heard of. You should watch them all, because you’re missing so much. There are a number of reasons to branch out, but here are a few.

Break the Stereotypes

In American (and other) cinema, there have been stereotypes built about certain countries that don’t always match what it’s really like there. Brazil and the Middle East are two examples of places that have been stereotyped in film. 

Brazil is either shown as just low income housing and rough slums (known as favelas) or big cities. They show them as two very different worlds that are so far apart. When in reality, they’re side by side, sometimes bleed together. Even the favelas are tamed down. The Brazillian film City of God takes a deeper look at what it’s really like to live in the favelas without a filter.

The Middle East receives the opposite treatment. It’s either war, or a historical film, set many years before modern times moved in. But if you’ve been to the Middle East, there’s more than war happening. There’s more to the people than the stereotypes the films portray.

See The Country From A New Point-of-View

Native people have a way of viewing their home country that outsiders either don’t or can’t see. They don’t have the same star-struck view of their country because they live there. 

Cultures in film should be used for more than shock and awe. Showing the Taj Mahal is the awe of India. It’s beautiful, but there’s more to it than that. That’s where Slumdog Millionaire did it right. It’s based off a book by an Indian author, Vikas Swarup, and it embraces all sides of India, from the glamour of the Taj Mahal, to the slums, to the modern amenities and television shows.

Another example, are the pyramids of Egypt. They’re always these distant behemoths far out in the desert. When we see them in films, like in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, they stand alone in the middle of a vastness of sand. However, they’re just a short walk from the city. 

When people make films set in their city/nation, they give the story a different feel and can show a rawness to the stories. 

Understanding the Cultures

Cultures are vastly different around the world, and film is a great way to see it without travelling. But you also have to be careful you’re getting the true culture in the movies you watch. 

Sometimes the stereotypes get in the way of what culture really is. Sometimes the stereotypes can make a film seem unrealistic, because of the views society has built about a country. There are very few films made about modern Africa that make it big in western cinema. So, when we see films like Black Panther with a very modern society, it’s written off as idyllic afro-futurism that has no basis in reality. However, if you visit Africa, you’ll find thriving metropolises in many countries.

Then, there’s the darker side. Films like Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April portray the same subject: the Rwandan genocides. Hotel Rwanda was an award winning film that told the story well, however there are people who believe Sometimes in April shows the reality of the time closer to the raw truth.

Seeing a film created by a native to a country allows for diversity within the story that reveals the cultures in their vast beauty. 

The Writing

Every region of the world has more than just a variation in language. Their idioms and humor are vastly different. Even English speaking countries differ from one another. 

I noticed this when I watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows with Americans. Both films are directed by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, from New Zealand. After living in Australia for the last few years and being around Kiwis, I understand the humor. There were things in both films I found hilarious that Americans didn’t find as funny. 

It’s not just the humor. It’s also the topics they’re willing to address. It’s a big thing to consider when watching foreign films. Other cultures are more, and less, free to talk about certain topics. 

There are also cultural taboos you may need to be aware of. Something that may make you uncomfortable may be completely normal in another culture, and openly portrayed in film. 

A New Look at Actors

Actors who branch out from their home nation have more reach than those who stick with acting in their own country. However, some of them get typecast because of appearance or accent. 

Mads Mikkelsen is one such actor. In English language films, he seems to be typecast as the villain or character of questionable motive. For those who don’t recall, he played Kaecilius: the villain or Doctor Strange, Hannibal Lecter in the television show Hannibal, and Galen Erso in Rogue One. Once you start looking into his Danish films, you’ll notice a number of comedies. 

Every actor that acts in a second language has a huge challenge. Not only do they have to convince the audience they truly are their character, they have to add the additional hurdle of not natively speaking the language. 

How To Watch A Foreign Film

Don’t watch an English dub. Use the subtitles. You lose so much of the acting when you remove the voice. You may be surprised just how much you understand from just hearing their voices. 

Watch it a second time. Don’t write it off after your first watch through. You miss some things reading the subtitles. The second time around, rely less on reading the subtitles. You know the story now. Watch it for the visuals.

Read a review or a film analysis from someone from the country. It will give you a new view on the film and show you if there were things you missed that had cultural significance. 

If you’re having trouble watching foreign films, find an actor you like and watch their films. You’ll find it easier to watch because you already like the actor. 

Check out these top five films lists from countries around the world made by people from those countries. The list will grow when we have new lists up on our site.

I hope you’ve realized how great foreign films can be. Go make some popcorn and settle in with your favorite movie snack to watch those inspirational films from around the globe.

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  • Connor Sassmannshausen is a screenwriter, video producer, and social media organizer with the Initiative Production Company. She loves watching movies, nerdy t-shirts, travelling and taking broken things apart (but not necessarily putting them back together).

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