WORLD CINEMA. Just a Platform has selected one hundred films, each from a different country to take you on a cultural movie odyssey. Why not broaden your filmic horizons by watching your way through our multinational selection of one hundred must see films! We hope you like our selection and would love to hear your comments on our choices or about your favourite country films.
Writer and director Siddiq Barmak makes his debut feature with a story about a 12 year old girl and her mother living under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. When a mother is arrested and jailed her daughter has to masquerade as a boy and adopts the name Osama. Osama must maintain her pretence to support her mother and grandmother by getting a job. The situation takes a serious twist when Osama is called up for military training by the Taliban.
Set in Albania in the 1970s, during the Enver Hoxha regime, Slogans, based on the novel by Ylljet Alicka “Parullat”, tells the story of Andre a young biology teacher who leaves the capital of Tirana to teach in a remote country village in the countryside. Andre has to choose between two political propaganda slogans for his class. His choice of slogan has consequences both for him and Diana another teacher who Andre is attracted to. An intriguing movie set against the backdrop of Socialist Albania.
The Battle for Algiers
Based on actual events, the movie commissioned by the Algerian government revolves around the Algerian revolution, analysed from two different perspectives: that of the French conquerors leaving Vietnam in defeat and wishing to take over Algeria and the Algerians seeking for independence. Without being a documentary, the movie adds a high dose of realism and emphasises the sentiment of camaraderie and unity.
The Secret in Their Eyes
In Juan José Campanella’s crime thriller, a retired legal counsellor starts writing a novel in a last ditch attempt to find closure for a rape case dating back some 25 years. As he writes he feels compelled to go back and find the people involved to help him get answers. The double setting cleverly frames Argentina’s dirty war (1973-86), when corruption was rife and criminal acts regularly went unpunished. Not a regular whodunnit, with the criminal being revealed halfway through the film, there are twists until the very end.
Muriel, overweight and awkward, is taunted and teased and finally ditched by her own group of “friends”. From then on Muriel is on a quest to prove herself to this bitchy group that she is something. Fleeing with a blank cheque from her authoritarian father, she goes to Sydney to make something of her life, joining forces with an old school friend. In this heartfelt film about the strength of true friendship and the importance of being yourself, Muriel finds out the hard way that you shouldn’t have to change yourself to fit in with other people.
The White Ribbon
Although having recently garnered massive critical acclaim for Amour, Michael Haneke’s 2008 Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon should not be overlooked. From 1913 until the outbreak of the first world war, a series of strange events occurs in a German village, which is run by a puritanical pastor and a baron. Are they connected? What brought them about? Austere and funereal, this is an artistic film shot entirely in black and white to create a distancing effect between the audience and the bizarre events which unfold.
Bahrain Shouting in the Dark
Electrifying and gut wrenching documentary focusing on forgotten and devastated uprising in Bahrain in 2001. As the media’s attention turned to protests and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt a popular revolt in Bahrain was largely going unreported even though an estimated quarter of the population was taking to the streets. An undercover film crew document events including the brutality of police and military towards demonstrators and also the chaos that was happening around the pearl roundabout and the only remaining
Partly based on the experiences of Franak Viačorka, who co-wrote and produced the movie, Viva Belarus is set in the time when the country was under the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The basis of the story is a young rock musician who rebels against a repressive system. Like the main character in the movie Miron, Viačorka, was also conscripted to the army where as a blogger he used social media channels to argue for democracy in Belarus. The movie won an award for best screenplay at the Brussels Film Festival.
Light hearted feel-good movie is definitely one to lift your spirits. In a world where talent shows seem to be everywhere and producers love giving air time to modern day carnival like gawking and ridicule Dominique Deruddere presents the deluded Marva who blatantly has no singing talent. Add into the mix Marva’s father who is adamant that his daughter has what it takes to hit the big time. Its a predictable audiencing routing for a happy ending movie but delivered with more than enough charm.
Five Bolivian and American teenagers try to make sense of their sexuality and the complexity of identity in this overlapping tale of self-perception and illusion as issues of femininity, masculinity and virginity are brought to the fore. The film stands out in that the majority of the actors are non-professional and shows how the points of view that people develop are very highly influenced by the small society surroundings in which they live. Bellott’s split screen technique makes for heightened realism, as there is never just one thing happening at a time.
Touching film that illustrates the life of a single mother, struggling to provide for her daughter, Sara, in a Sarajevo strongly affected by the war. However, the social conditions are not the only problem for the two main characters. Once Sara makes a new friend, Samir, a young boy whose father was a war hero, just like her father, Sara’s life begins to be shrouded in mystery, which deepens by the second.
City of God
Between the late 60s and the 80s in Rio de Janeiro, organized crime is on the increase. Two boys grow up following very different paths, one becoming a drug dealer, the other a photographer. By the 1970s, Li’l Zé rules the city, leaving behind him a trail of violence and fear. Rocket has watched Li’l Zé gain power over the years, and finds himself caught up in his affairs, despite just wanting to take photos. A fast and fantastic assault on the senses, this is a coming of age story under the guise of a violent crime thriller.
The Unknown Soldier’s Patent Leather Shoes
Director Rangel Vulchanov’s movie places itself among those of reference in the Bulgarian cinematography. Having used only amateur actors, the plot of the movie focuses on the feelings and philosophy surrounding the personal development during the childhood years, which is what makes this movie one of a kind.
Enemies of the people
Thet Sambath, investigation journalist, whose family was murdered during the revolution, by the “Red Khmeri” is on the trail of discovering who was responsible for the Cambodian genocide from the second half of the 70s. The search for the truth has begun and different testimonials coming from war criminals, including from Nuon Chea, the dictator’s right hand, shed light into the matter.
A politically avant-garde futuristic sci-fi erotic thriller, Les Saignantes tells the story of two women, with beauty and brains, who become involved with the corrupt political elite, using their charms to try and do what is best for the country. When one of the political leaders dies, the women have a body on their hands which they have to get rid of. Irreverent, creative and controversial, the film explores the rich cultural heritage of the people and turns the spotlight on the corrupt and inefficient governments of African countries.
Two friends, Francis and Maries, both fall in love with the same man, Nicolas. The three become close friends, although it quickly becomes apparent that Francis and Marie have intentions that go beyond friendship, and they fight for his affections. The relationship between the three turns sour, and eventually Nicolas leaves the country. Although lacking some depth of characterisation, Xavier Dolan’s second film shows the potential of this young director, with brilliant cinematography and a catchy soundtrack.
The Holy Mountain
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s astonishingly artistic and detailed homage to the sexual awakening of the late 1960s. A thief, the spitting image of christ, encounters someone who is enlightened who takes him on as an apprentice. Gathering seven of the world’s most powerful individuals, they go on a spiritual pilgrimage to Lotus Island to gain immortality. The first half an hour of the film is composed entirely of extraordinary imagery, drawing on Jodorowsky’s extensive spiritual knowledge. Not for the fainted hearted, this is a bizarre and beautiful film.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
4 Oscars and 2 Golden Globe awards best recommend this movie. The film tells the story of two women who have to conduct their own battles with the destiny. They cross each other’s path when the warrior Yu is sent to find the Green Destiny, a supernatural sword, and her investigation leads her to Jen, a nobleman’s adolescent daughter. The dazzling intrigue, and the constant search of the sword, in tandem with the search of love propagates this film among the top movies of the Chinese cinematographic industry.
Rosario Tijeras is told in flashback from the point of view of Antonio, a man from the upper classes of Medellín. It tells the story of a beautiful and sensual hitwoman involved with the drug cartels, and two upper class men, one of which is Antonio, who falls in love with her after meeting in a Medellín nightclub. Raped and abused as a child, Rosario, although now in control, is still trying to understand her past. A story of passion and recklessness in a city which is crumbling under narcoterrorism.
Set in Kinshasa we find the ambitious Riva who with a partner in crime hatches a plan to make some big bucks from a secret supply of oil in the petrol starved capital. But Riva is not the only one who has his eyes on the prize and competition from a big crime boss, a smooth chancer and even a mercenary church. Further complications arise when Riva is dazzled by crime boss Azor’s girlfriend. Lots of sex and violence in a lawless environment where its survival of the fittest.
Fine Dead Girls
Intense fast paced thriller set in Zagreeb. Iva and Marija, a lesbian couple, move into an apartment building from hell. Cue lots of crazy and disturbing characters – addicts, abusers, prostitutes, dodgy landlords and other creepy characters – and the situations it throws up. Underlying theme of intolerance in the movie in what Iva and Marija have to go through. Brutal in parts but with dark humourous moments.
Ambitious movie that charts the lives of three women called Lucía over three different eras, the Cuban war of independence (with Spain), the 1930’s, and the 1960’s. The movie gives you a real insight into Cuban history and culture and those familiar with these aspects will probably appreciate the nuances more than others but still a very watchable film.
After a failed journey to Italy, one group of immigrants ends up in Cyprus. Among those, there is also Mustafa, a man anxious to get rid of the poverty surrounding him in his native country. Discovering that he is on Cyprus land unsettles Mustafa; however, this situation does not last for long because he finds new friends and together they will end up sharing some incredibly funny adventures.
Divided we Fall
Compelling drama set in Czechoslovakia under German occupation. From the start there is plenty of intrigue in the unusual plot. A German couple, who are trying for a baby, take the decision to help hide a Jewish neighbour and also have to deal with an old friend who has Nazi ties. Superb characterisation means that you really never know what the characters are gonna do or how they will react to situations that appear bizarre and at the same time seem to naturally evolve.
A young pre-school teacher, Lucas, is in a struggle with his ex-wife over the custody of their son. Things gradually get better, thanks to Lucas’s new love interest, but then a white lie from a lovestruck young pupil gets him in a lot of trouble. In this extraordinary film, Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas is portrayed with great sensitivity and deservedly won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor prize for his portrayal of a wrongly convicted sexual predator. We watch as humans turn animalistic when they feel their close-knit village community is threatened.
Kill the dictator
Lieutenant Amado Garcia Guerrero is Dictator General Trujillo’s right-hand man. What he doesn’t know is that close members of his family oppose Trujillo’s dictatorship and plan to kill the dictator, a plan that, after witnessing the general’s actions first hand, the Lieutenant will also become involved in. Labelled the best film to come out of the Dominican Republic in a long time, and treating a very important and shocking time of the country’s history, Kill the dictator is interesting in that the dictator here becomes only a secondary character as we focus on the life of the man who works closest to him.
Ratas, ratones, rateros
Salvador, a petty thief living in impoverished Quito, has his world turned upside down with the arrival of his cousin Angel, who is an ex-convict with a hefty price on his head, in search of easy money. As he attempts to escape from the constraints of family life, Salvador gets wrapped up in Angel’s dealings and manages to drag his family down with him into the criminal underworld. A story of lost innocence and a detailed picture of backstreet violence in Ecuador’s cities.
The Mummy (The Night of Counting the Years)
Chadi Abdel Salam’s The Mummy is based on a true story. In 1881, precious objects appeared at market and it became apparent that members of a tribe were robbing these artifacts from the tombs of royal mummies. The film tackles the guilt felt by one member of the tribe at their own exploitation of their country’s history and heritage. The Mummy is beautifully evocative with a brilliant score, and is widely recognized as one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made.
Set in an almost abandoned coastal village in the autumn of 1944 in Estonia Somnambulance is a psychological drama revolving around a young woman named Eetla. Beautifully shot and framed the movie captures the inner and real world turmoil that Eetla experiences as her subconscious and conscious mind drift in and out and intertwine.
Mother of Mine
Winner of numerous awards, Klaus Härö’s film is a discussion between Eero and his biological mother Kirsti. In the second world war, Eero was evacuated to Sweden where Signe, his Swedish mother, originally frustrated at Eero’s reluctance to adapt to his new way of life, managed to forge a strong bond with the boy over time. On his return to Finland, Eero discovered he was no longer able to pick up the original relationship he had with Kirsti. This emotional story highlights the confusion of a finnish child who has no space in his heart for two mothers.
The 400 blows
The first film in Francois Truffaut’s series about Antoine Doinel and an important film of the French New Wave. The young Antoine Doinel, Balzac lover, gets bored at school and plays truant. He gets put in a centre for juvenile delinquents, flees that and arrives at the beach, where he realises he can no longer run any further. The irony is that when he is most free, he has nowhere to go. With innovative shooting methods and the incredible acting of Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine, this is a film that will make you laugh and make you cry.
Buy The 400 blows on DVD
Although the 1980s produced a number of talented new wave of film makers they were still limited in their output due to the political, social and economic confines of the period. One movie made in the 80s was Repentance but which had its original release banned due to its anti Stalinist sentiments. The movie is the third in a trilogy after The Plead and Tree of Wishes by director Tengiz Abuladze and focuses on focuses on a dictatorial monster and his son both played brilliantly by Avtandil Makharadze. The movie is very literary and artistic and works on a number of levels.
The Lives of Others
Moving film that captures what East Berlin was like under the presence of the Stasi in the 80s. A period when the Stasi had lots of files on everyone and you never really knew if your neighbour might be informing on you. Having to watch what you would say just in case you were targeted and the fear of a spell in a Stasi prison as a result. A seriously good thriller set against the backdrop of life in the old GDR with a memorable ending.
The Perfect Picture
Romantic comedy revolving around three close female friends. Love, marriage and life looms large as the women are faced with a number of challenging situations. Movie provides an insight into Ghanaian society and attitudes. Although the movie had mixed reviews amongst critics it was generally well received by the paying public and director Shirley Frimpong-Manso won the won Best Director for the movie at the 2010 African Movie Academy Awards.
Crazy Greek drama which although may not be everyone’s cup of tea wins full marks for its inventiveness. and imagination. A married couple keep have kept their now three grown up children shielded from the outside world which obviously throws up a number of weird scenarios. The movie takes a turn when one of the children develops a curious streak.
Village at the end of the World
A sweet, charming heart warming documentary focusing on the real challenges facing a small remote fishing in Niaqornat, North West Greenland – population 59. It’s a poignant tale of a community’s spirit as they unite together to battle adversity and try to build a sustainable future seemingly against the odds.
Where the roads end
The autobiographical tale of Monteforte Toledo, named Doctor Zamora in the film, who arrives in Guatemala during the military dictatorship in the early 20th century. He is determinate to wipe out illness amongst the native Guatemalans. Whilst working in San Pedro La Laguna, he falls in love with María, and asks her to come and live with him. However, others have noticed this charming young man and he has unwittingly caused friction amongst the non-Indians and Indians in the area. A sensitive look at ethnic conflict from an outsider’s point of view.
Baseball in the Time of Cholera
Set around the real life events in Haiti as the country is ravaged by a cholera epidemic. A young boy plays baseball in Haiti’s first little league team as the United Nation continues to deny any responsibility for the outbreak even in the facing of overwhelming damning evidence. A Haitian lawyer takes up the challenge for justice.
Spirit of my mother
Sonia is a single mother living in Los Angeles, far away from her Garifuna roots and continually disturbed by dreams about her dead mother. When dismissed from her job as a nanny, Sonia travels to Honduras to fulfill her mother’s desire that she performs a ceremony that will allow her to rest in peace. There, Sonia finally embraces her rich cultural heritage with the help of guidance from her relatives. A compelling tale of a woman’s transformation as she accepts her past and moves forward into the present, told through the effective blending of documentary and narrative techniques.
The movie portrays the life of the legendary Yip Man, the first master of the martial arts to teach the Wing Chun who encounters a series of unfortunate events, which he has to face by fighting, in order to protect and support his family. The Observer, film critic Philip French, remarked how the fights are excellently choreographed, and Donnie Yen is an attractive presence. Definitely a good choice on a Sunday evening.
In WWII Hungary two soldiers are staying at a remote country home. The sexually frustrated Vendel, practises various masturbation techniques while watching the commanding officer’s wife and daughters. His eventual son Kalman, the product of an ambiguous fantasy scene, becomes a champion of Hungary’s eating competitions in the Cold War era. He marries a female eating champion, but their son Lajos does not inherit their gift, instead making a living as a taxidermist. Visually impressive whilst being simultaneously horrifically gross, this is one not to be missed by those who enjoy the surreal and the outright bizarre.
Children of Nature
When Thorgeir gets too old to run his farm and is not made to feel particularly welcome when he moves in with his daughter and son-in-law, he is forced to move to a care home in Reykjavik. There, he meets an old childhood friend, Stella, and they flee the home for Stella’s own home in the north west to die together. A touching film that raises questions of the futility of longevity if you have everything you lived for taken away, this was Iceland’s nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 64th Academy Awards.
Filmmaker Richard Attenborough recounts Mahatma Ghandi’s life and the important role that Gandhi had in propagating better social and economic conditions for the people of India, whilst using nonviolent methods of getting his peaceful ideas across. Avid defender of India’s independence, he also joined the political environment. Through the boycott of the British merchandise, prison time and the peaceful resistance against the British authorities with the sole aim of obtaining India’s independence, Gandhi became a legend.
Gie is a movie based on the journals of activist Soe Hok Gie who lived in the 6os in Indonesia. Set in a politically volatile and dark period in the history of the country student Gie tries to makes sense of what is happening all around politically and also in his personal life him while trying to maintain his idealism. His only sense of order comes to him when he is able to enjoy nature. The film received an honourable mention at Cannes.
This animated film, based on the autobiographical cartoon of the same name, tells the story of a young girl, Marjane Satrapi, as she grows up amidst the growing political discomfort in Iran. Marji lived in Tehran, but as the unrest grows during the Iranian Revolution, her parents decide she must leave and go to a French Lycée in Vienna, where she will be safe and enjoy much greater freedom of expression. Always with her grandmother’s voice in her head, Marji has to learn how to stay true to her Iranian roots whilst integrating into the culture of another country.
Back to Babylon
Documentary feature in which Iraqi-born director Abbas Fahdel seeks to discover what has become of his friends and what life has made of them during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, the after-effects of the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war and the embargo imposed by the UN. The situation in present day Iraq is sensitively portrayed through the eye of the camera. Suffering from the overwhelming guilt often experienced by survivors, Fahdel has not only created an emotional portrait of a devastated country but an impressively poetic film as well.
In the Name of the Father
Daniel Day Lewis stars as Gerry Conlon, in the true story of the ‘Guildford Four’ who were wrongly accused of the IRA bombing of a pub in London in 1974. It was another Tour De Force performance from Lewis. Both Pete Postlethwaite, as Gerry’s father, and Emma Thompson, as the appeal lawyer, are also pretty good in supporting roles.
Waltz with Bashir
Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is a documentary film showing Ari Folman as he goes in search of his memories and experiences as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. Winning a Golden Globe, a César Award and a Bafta, Waltz with Bashir has received high critical acclaim. When Folman realises he has no memory at all of his time serving as an infantry soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, he is advised by a friend to find others who were in Beirut at the same time to understand what happened. After talking to friends, soldiers and a psychologist, Folman concludes that his amnesia stems from his own feelings of guilt.
La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini’s classic 1960s movie is full of style, panache and verve. It was considered controversial and groundbreaking when it was released and still feels very modern and relevant to the glitzy, celebrity obsessed world of today. Visually the movie looks sumptuous and the dialogue is witty, sparkling and immensely thought provoking.
The Harder They Come
Kick ass soundtrack by Jimmy Cliff who also stars in this movie set in Kingston in the 1970s. Ivanhoe Martin leaves the country trying to make a living and life in the city. Martin has a talent as a reggae singer but encounters some complications. He is then drawn into another world of gangsters and guns It’s a hard hitting drama that really picks up pace as we head to the finale.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Japan. The 19th century. Zatoichi is a blind wanderer who lives off gambling and massages, but behind his humble appearance, an incredible sword master lies within. Life brings Zatoichi together with two beautiful geishas, Okinu and her sister, Osei, looking to revenge their parents’ murder. This cinematographic masterpiece won no less than three Venice awards.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Just as he had destroyed the reputation of the town of Staines in the UK with his Ali G character, Sasha Baron Cohen, turned his attention to Kazakhstan with his creation of Borat. As always Cohen’s gift is to make an absurd character interact with the unsuspecting who are unable to work out that he is in fact a complete joker. The movie has a number of superb funny, silly and memorable moments . Cohen bagged a Golden Globe for best actor but the film was banned in all Arab countries apart from Lebanon.
This technically impressive film originated in a workshop for film enthusiasts from Nairobi, working under the direction of German filmmaker, Tom Tykwer. 14 year old Abila lives in Kibera, an East African slum. One day he discovers his father deliriously ill and it transpires that he has gambled away his own soul. Abila hunts down the witch who was present when the accident occurred and she sets him seven challenges he must undertake to save his father’s soul, challenges which lead him straight into the microcosm that is his hometown.
Absolute, crazy, bonkers, fantastic roller coaster ride directed by Park Chan-Wook. The film revolves around the central character of Oh Dae-su, who was locked away for 15 years in a hotel room and has no reason why or by who. When he gets out another mysterious and violent world opens up in Oh Dae-su’s pursuit of revenge. The movie is the second part of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.
Set in present day Lebanon, the film centers around the intersecting stories of four Lebanese women, each with their own problem: Layale, Rima, Jamale, and Rose. Caramel, which is a bittersweet reference to the caramel used as a depilatory in Layale’s beauty salon, is unique in that it avoids any of the present day problems occurring in Lebanon, and instead focuses on Lebanese women’s personal problems in a light hearted and refreshing way. The film sensitively highlights such issues as repressed desires, forbidden love and suffocating traditions.
Lion of the Dessert
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn was a well known Hollywood actor who bagged two Oscars for supporting actor roles. Quinn had already made the English version of Mohammad: Messenger of God in 1976 about the life and times of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam before he went on to make the Lion of the Dessert which was also directed by Moustapha Akkad. In Lion of the Desert Quinn plays ibyan tribal leader Omar Mukhtar, a Bedouin leader fighting the Italian army in the years leading up to World War II. The film was financed by the Colonel Gaddafi government of the time but banned by the Italian authorities in 1982.
Dreamworks animation as four Central Park animals get shipwrecked and end up on the island of Madagascar. The movie has the voices of Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Sacha Baron Cohen. Two sequels were to follow in the form of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.
I don’t want to sleep alone
A film that is almost a photographic essay, with little dialogue and little music, I don’t want to sleep alone follows a homeless man, a paralyzed man, a group of foreigners and a waitress who look after each other in the midst of the city. The soundtrack is made up entirely of background noise as the film explores sex, human desires and alienation against a backdrop of daily hustle and bustle. Although long, and at times lagging, the film makes use of beautiful cinematography and exposes the grim underside to city life.
And your mother too
Alfonso Cuarón’s coming of age drama about two teenage boys. Julio and Tenoch, bored whilst their girlfriends are away on a trip to Italy, meet Luisa at a wedding and try to impress her. Initially declining their invitation to travel with them to their favourite beach, Luisa eventually changes her mind and the three set off. It is a trip of confessions, arguments and sexual awakening, set against a backdrop of political and social issues in Mexico, with the story often pausing to let a narrator give social commentary. A road movie that is funny, intelligent and sexy.
Bed of Procust
Nominated as Best Picture Best Director (Golden Pyramid) at “Cairo International Film Festival” (2002), the film revolves around Ladima’s suicide, who leaves behind a note to a certain Mrs T. As the plot thickens, the mystery deepens and a certain Mr X leaves his fortune to the same Mrs T. Based on the Romanian novelist’s book with the same name, the movie illustrates an infusion of death, love triangle, secrecy and money that is most definitely worth seeing.
To Catch A Thief
Cary Grant and Grace Kelly star in the Hitchcock light hearted thriller. A jewel thief is on the loose in Monaco and suspicion seems to lay squarely with John Robbie (Grant). Enter the drop-dead gorgeous socialite Frances played by Kelly and the scene is set for an intriguing mystery. Its also a dazzling and sumptuous visual ode to the principality.
A pearl in the forest
A pearl in the forest tells the story of Sendem, a beautiful girl living in a Mongolian Buryat village in 1930s Mongolia, when Stalin was carrying out his infamous “purges”. Although Sendem is engaged, Markhaa, a villager who has returned as a government spy, is determined to win her over using his authority to take her by force. Shot on location in a Buryat village, the film provides a testimony of the suffering families had to undergo in the period from 1934-38. The use of local villagers as well as actors adds to the authenticity and draws us into the world of the characters.
A bored American wife leaves her comfy affluent life in Stockholm and ends up spending time in a ghetto inhabited by immigrant workers from Southern and Eastern Europe. Directed by Dusan Makavejev its a pretty raucous ride where you are really don’t know the depths it will reach or where it may end up. The movie was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Cry no more
The title of Narjiss Nejjar’s 2004 film is slightly ironic – it is sure to bring a tear to the eye. The film tells the story of an isolated berber village inhabited only by prostitutes, frequented by paying customers who arrive on the night of the full moon. But when Mina, a man dressed in a Charlie Chaplin outfit, imprisoned for 25 years, returns to the village, things are turned upside down. The director stated that she wanted to draw attention to berber identity, something overlooked by many, in which people struggle economically and where the only option is prostitution.
A fantastic voyage on the road of life movie where the path just happens to have the stunning backdrop of the Nepalese Himalayas. French director Eric Valli uses his knowledge of the Himalayan (Dolpo) people he’s filming, after living with them for years and speaking the language. Valli used mainly local non professional actors who all seemed to rise to the challenge admirably. The story has a number of themes including the conflict between generations, traditions, pride and the realities and challenges of an old world remote Nepal village.
After the death of their parents, twins Lotte and Anna are sent to live separately with different relatives. Lotte ends up being raised by well-off middle class intellectuals in Amsterdam and Anna finds herself with a poor peasant family in Germany where, in the 1930s, the only chance of upward social movement seems to be through the Nazi Party. This is a thought-provoking film which tackles the morally difficult decisions ordinary individuals have to make when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
Jane Campion’s movie set in the New Zealand wilderness in Victorian times was a disorientating and emotional epic. Both Holly Hunter and Harvey Kietel put in memorable performances that do justice to obviously a great script and direction. The film and its actors bagged a number of awards, notably at Cannes and the Oscars. Anna Paquin won the best supporting actress award at the Oscars at the age of 11 for her role as Flora.
Obviously as is apparent the movie was a distinctly low budget production but an interesting and entertaining movie nonetheless. Igodo is the story of a quest to rid a curse on the land by finding out deep secrets about the past. Seven is the magic number required, seven worthy men with different talents have to come together to tackle the land of the living dead.
Oslo August 31st
The film revolves a recovering drug addict in Oslo trying to find his place and purpose in the world. It’s a complex character study as we see a day in the life of Anders who is obviously trying to reconcile a number of conflicting issues. The way the film was shot, the dialogues and tone are effective in showing how Anders teeters between melancholy, desperation and hope.
Winner of an Oscar award, this short documentary shifts the glare towards an encountered practice in Pakistan: the acid attacks on women, which occur as a result of the cultural inequalities between men and women. Political matters and possible solutions regarding this topic are also discussed.
The wind and the water
This lovely movie illustrates the parallel between two teenagers, Machi and Rosy, who are both part of the same community: Kuna Yala. Although they were born at the same time, life provided different opportunities for them: whilst Machi lives the life of a fisherman, on the Kuna Yala territory, and speaks the indigenous language, Rosy grows up in Panama city and dreams of becoming a model. However, when a big company is trying to obtain the Kuna Yala territory, life brings Machi and Rosy together, under the umbrella of the same dream: the survival of the community.
Juan Carlos Maneglia’s thriller tells the story of Victor, a 17 year old delivery boy living in Asunción, who dreams of becoming famous. He receives the proposal of delivering seven boxes of unknown content in exchange for an easy 100 dollars. What promises to be an quick task becomes increasingly more complicated as something in the boxes is highly coveted and Victor soon finds himself entangled in a crime about which he knows nothing. With multiple plot twists and plenty of black humour, this is a real crowd pleaser.
The Milk of Sorrow
Addressing the abuse of women during Peru’s recent history, Claudia Llosa’s film tells the story of Fausta, a young woman suffering from a disease known in folklore as ‘the milk of sorrow’. This disease is passed to children through the breast milk of mothers who, during pregnancy, suffered abuse at the hands of members of security forces during Peru’s years of terror in the 1980s and 90s. Llosa’s work is both a psychological and sociological exploration of the years of conflict when mass rapes were used by the army as a war strategy.
Ashes and Diamonds
In 1945 on the day of Germany’s surrender, two Home Army soldiers, Maciek and Andrzej have been ordered to assassinate the communist Commissar Szczuka. In the time between the first and second attempts, Maciek falls in love with a barmaid, Krystyna, and decides that he merely wishes to lead a normal life. Andrzej informs him that this would be deserting, and Maciek is forced to carry out his task. With strong influences from Hollywood, particularly film noir, this is an honest and compelling film with an entire spectrum of conflicting political opinions portrayed.
An artistic film by Manoel de Oliveira that turns the patriarchal tables around when the protagonist, Ema, finds herself rather too powerful when faced with a world ruled by men. From when she is an innocent child, her beauty has the power to make cars crash in the street. As she grows older she chooses to marry a man with no machismo so she can continue exercising her extraordinary power in the form of adultery. A haunting story based on the novel by Agustina Bessa-Luis, and winner of the Critics Award at the 1993 São Paulo International Film Festival.
Directed by Nae Caranfil, the movie catches a glimpse of Bucharest, in the 21st century, when going out with a beautiful woman was a risky financial investment that most ordinary people could not afford to. However, Ovidiu, our main character and modest high school teacher, falls in love with Diana, a beautiful young girl, a fact that impels him to make more money, by pretending to be married with some other woman. Ovidiu’s attempt to balance his double life is what turns this movie into a frothy comedy.
Salman Rushdie calls the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris “a sci-fi masterpiece”, and has urged that “This exploration of the unreliability of reality and the power of the human unconscious, this great examination of the limits of rationalism and the perverse power of even the most ill-fated love, needs to be seen as widely as possible”. Alex Deeley called the film “so organic and complex that it defies categorisation.”
Ghosts of Rwanda
To mark the 10th year anniversary of the mass genocide in Rwanda Frontline produced a powerful and insightful documentary chronicling one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. The film uses interviews with key government officials, diplomats, soldiers, and survivors of the slaughter providing first-hand accounts of the genocide from those who lived it.
Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1973 film tells the story of Mory, a cowherd, and his girlfriend Anta, a university student. Feeling alienated from Senegalese society, they long to move to Paris to make money and forge a future for themselves. Eventually, Mory steals money and they set off to Paris. Regarded as Senegal’s first avant-garde film, the discontinuities and distinctive narrative style make for impressive cinema, with some beautiful images and colours. There is implicit criticism of the French bourgeoisie in Senegal, with the multiple scenes of slaughtered cattle posing as a metaphor for the mistreatment of young senegalese men.
Black cat, white cat
Directed by Emil Kusturica, this quirky comedy brilliantly presents the lives of a few Serbian villagers, who are either trying to get rid of some of their debts, or trying to collect them in various ways. Taking into account the funny occurrences of the unplanned weddings that come as a result of the debts, or just waiting for the true love, there is no chance one could stop laughing when seeing this movie; that is for sure.
Superb thrilling and thoroughly engrossing adventure movie. Set in the period of a horrific and bloody war between government soldiers and rebel forces that ravaged the country the movie deals with a number of provocative issues from the mining of diamonds, to child soldiers and the machete hackings of innocent people in one of the darkest modern day periods in African history. The sub plots of a man trying to find his missing family and a mercenary diamond hunter’s unlikely growing attachment to an investigative reporter keep the movie going at a slick and compelling pace. A top notch thriller.
The Shop on the High Street
Set against the backdrop of Slovakia during World War 2 Tóno an impoverished carpenter is given the opportunity to take over a shop that is owned by Ida an elderly Jewish lady. Tóno taking over the shop is part of the Aryanization that is taking place in the town. Ida is unable to comprehend what is really going on and thinks that Tóno is actually looking for a job rather than taking over her shop. As a friendship grows between the two further complications have far reaching consequences.
No Mans Land
No Man’s Land tells the story of three soldiers, two Bosnians and one Serb, who end up trapped in a trench between the two fronts. The movie highlights the absurdities of war and the way it drives people to act in crazy ways. It also manages to give an insight into just what a complex and sometimes baffling conflict there was in the region and the bloodshed and lives it ultimately cost. The film won the best foreign language movie award at the Oscars in 2001.
Gavin Hood’s 2005 film tells the story of Tsotsi, a young ruffian living in a Johannesburg slum who steals a car only to realise there is a baby in the back. With a baby now on board Tsotsi begins to gain some morals. He passes the baby on to the care of Miriam, who he originally held at gunpoint demanding that she feed the child. In the emotional ending we see Tsotsi finally return the baby to its parents and turn himself into the police. Winning the 2005 Academy Award for best foreign language film, Tsotsi is an emotionally charged thriller.
The spirit of the beehive
In the small town of Hoyuelos in 1940s Spain, 7 year old Ana and her older sister, Isabel, go to the cinema to see Frankenstein. Ana, not fully understanding the film, becomes obsessed with the monster. One day, she discovers a man hiding in the stable in the fields near her town, who she associates with Frankenstein, and she takes him food. Upon discovering the man, and that he is a fugitive republican soldier, the police shoot him. The Spirit of the Beehive is a beautifully shot masterpiece, highlighting the traumatic aftermath of the civil war and the repression of collective memory.
Let the right one in
Oskar is a loner and unfortunate target of the school bullies in the small, snow covered Swedish town where he lives. One day he makes friends with Eli, who encourages him to stand up to the bullies. Whilst their friendship blossoms, strange things are happening in town. People are being murdered and drained of their blood. Not your typical vampire film, Let the right one in chooses to focus on the developing relationship between the two children and the social isolation of the small town. The haunting colours and freezing location make for both a compelling film and well told narrative.
Journey of hope
The journey of a family who travel from Turkey to Switzerland in hope of a better life. Haydar and Meryem take one son with them, at the advice of Haydar’s father, so that he can receive a European education. They get as far as Lake Como where they pay a man to help them on their way. He abandons them just before the arrival of a blizzard in the Alps and Haydar and his son become separated from Meryem. Academy award winning film on the trials and tribulations faced by many who flee their homeland for a better future.
The light in her eyes
The light in her eyes documents how Houda al-Habash, a conservative Muslim, founded a Qur’an school for girls in Damascus some 30 years ago. Shot just before the Syrian uprising, this documentary shows how one leader encouraged women to live according to Islam but without losing sight of their dreams. An important film for anyone struggling to understand the Syrian conflict in its cultural context and to grasp what Islam means to many middle class Syrians, particularly Syrian women.
The director duo of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom followed up their box office success with Shutter with another chilling spooky movie Alone. The movie revolves around a dead siamese twin who returns to haunt her sister. Although some critics said that it lacked originality and was derivate it’s a pretty scary horror movie with plenty of suspense.
Novelist and director Pema Tseden crafted a fascinating movie which focuses on the changing landscape of Tibetan values and traditions in the face of outside pressures. This developing conflict of traditional Tibetan values and way of life are brought to the fore with engaging complexities and deep and rich ironies. The Tibetan mastif once a breed favoured by nomadic rural Tibetans has become a highly cherished and prized possesion of the affluent. Raw and captivating storytelling.
The Silences of the Palace
A brilliant award-winning film about economic and sexual oppression during the French occupation. Alia is the daughter of a beautiful servant, Khedija, growing up in the King’s Palace towards the end of the French colonial rule. As she gets older she becomes increasingly aware of the sexual favours required of the female servants in the palace. The title of the film is more a reference to the silencing of the ordinary Tunisian people, whose voices are ignored amongst the bustling noises of the palaces ruled by the aristocracy.
The Cannes awarded movie is centered on two main characters: Mahmut, an Istanbul based photographer, and his cousin Yusuf who finds himself jobless after the factory he was working in closed. In desperate need of money, Yusuf contacts his cousin, but soon, the small differences between the two begin to emphasise the psychological war between the two cousins. A movie about loneliness, alienation and the refusal to change oneself and to accept others as they are, Distant is considered to be one of the best European movies of 2002.
The Last King of Scotland
Based on the best selling novel by Giles Foden The Last King of Scotland tells the story of Uganda under the reign of brutal dictator Idi Amin through the eyes of his personal physician, a young doctor from Scotland. Both Forest Whitaker, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Amin, and James McAvoy, in an early stand-out performance, are very watchable. A decent movie only maybe missing more diligence to the horrendous treatment of Asians in Uganda at the time.
Shadows of forgotten ancestors
Also known as ‘Wild horses of fire’ for most foreign distributions, Soviet filmmaker Segei Parajanov’s 1964 film Shadows of forgotten ancestors is based on the classic book by writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky. A tale of lost love, the film tells the story of Ivan, who ends up fighting the sorcerer who has him under a spell under the orders of his new wife. Full of religious and symbolic imagery, and using colours to represent mood, the film sensitively portrays the rhythms of village life and stimulates the senses in every way.
95. United Kingdom
Nil By Mouth
Gary Oldman’s debut as a writer/director, based on his own experiences of working class South London life, produced one of the most memorable and best British films of the decade. It’s an uncompromising, dark and brutally realistic critique of alcoholism, drug abuse, petty crime and domestic violence perpetuated by unreconstructed London ‘geezers’. The camera work adds a seriously voyeuristic dimension and Oldman seems to nail every scene and every line with stunning verisimilitude.
A useful life
This 2010 drama, directed by Federico Veiroj, tells the sad tale of a projectionist, Jorge. When the cinema he works in closes down, he has to learn how to live a different life in Montevideo. Having spent 25 years living almost entirely in the film booth and his small office, the tale is both a simple love story of a man and the cinema and a docu-fiction of an old cinema that proudly displayed classic arthouse films to an ever shrinking audience. An irreverent and short feature that manages to be both touching and engaging despite its length.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris is our likeable hero who decides to take a day off school, roping in his girfriend and best friend. There are a number of very funny and memorable scenes including Ferris taking centre stage and singing Twist and Shout on a moving float at a day parade. The only person not totally taken in by Ferris’ antics is his school principal Ed Rooney. Rooney’s attempts to expose Ferris have hilarious consequences. Director John Hughes movies typically have a killer philosophical quotable line and in this it surely is “Life goes by so fast, that if you don’t stop and look around, you might miss it”
1985 Cannes Film Festival Caméra d’Or prize winner, Fina Torres’s first feature-length film received astounding critical acclaim. When Maria returns to Venezuela from France she discovers her aunt Oriana has passed away and left her a remote hacienda where Maria spent time as a young adolescent. When visiting the crumbling house to prepare it for sale, Maria, wandering through the corridors, starts to remember her visit many years earlier. The flashbacks show a strange atmosphere and hint at events better forgotten as Maria tries to understand the secrets of Oriana’s past.
A number of great films set around one of the most controversial and turbulent wars. But Francis Ford Coppola’s epic is hard to beat. From the opening scene as you hear the helicopter and the Doors “The End” it’s the begin of a highly emotive trip. Marlon Brando puts in an immense performance as the awol Colonel who has seen into another dimension of reality from which he will never truly return.
A New Day in Old Sana’a
A romantic drama and tale of whether a young aristocrat will follow his true love or observe duty and tradition and marry a rich judge’s daughter. The film was the first and to date the only Yemen film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The Yemen Times reported how the film had ‘received positive criticism and one reviewer called it “a tale of magic realism”, similar to that evoked by the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.’
(Cover image adapted from See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Flickr)
List compiled by Sav D’Souza, Imogen Robinson & Andreea Dobrila.