A Kurdish-Iraqi immigrant runs into serious immigration problems as he tries to immigrate from France to England in order to be reunited with his girlfriend. Eventually he begins to train in swimming, in an attempt to swim the channel between France and England. Welcome is a gripping tale of tolerance as well as relationships between locals and immigrants. It also gives a great look into the shortcoming of the European immigration system, and will have you crying by the end of it, no question.
Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays the Adele’s evolution, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman. The spirit Emma lights up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is an honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.
Once again, Mads Mikkelsen gives us an unforgettable performance in this Danish thriller. Lucas is a new teacher in a small town. He is just starting a new life after a divorce and the loss of his last job. One day, a child from the class he is teaching accuses him of an unforgivable act. The lie will spread throughout the small community and will tear Lucas’ life apart. The Hunt, or “Jagten” in its original version, is one of those rare thrillers that will haunt you for days, and make you question everything in its aftermath. Extraordinary!
Ida, the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is a stark black & white drama set in the early 60’s about a young Polish nun-to-be and her bawdy Aunt Wanda searching for the truth behind her family’s demise at the hands of the Nazis. What initially comes off as a painfully slow sleep-inducer pretty quickly evolves into a touching and lively contrast between the two lead characters; one virtuous and pure, the other boorish and hedonistic. Their journey is equal parts amusing, insightful and heartbreaking, with Ida’s personal exploration of self playing out as a remarkably humanistic affair. The cinematography by Lukasz Za and Ryszard Lenczewski is particularly striking, each shot a work of art in it’s own right. Logging in at just 82 minutes, the entire story whizzes by in a flash. The kind of film that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.
Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though — she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
A black and white movie, A Coffee in Berlin is an early Woody Allen reminiscent film with a great emphasis on the emotions it handles. It flows naturally, telling the story of Niko, a young college dropout in a period of his life where he has to face loneliness and lack of money and success. He goes from observing the people of Berlin to first realizing he is becoming a stranger to them and then lastly deciding to do something about his life. It’s a whimsical German film with a lot of heart, as much of a tribute to youth as it is a tribute to the city of Berlin.
Beautiful story-telling and powerful acting boost the story of an Iranian man returning to France to finalize his divorce. He finds that his wife has a new lover. A lot more happens that I wouldn’t want to spoil for you, the film is in fact directed by Iranian legend Asghar Farhadi, so expect twists and subtleties you’re probably familiar with from A Separation or About Elly. That said, The Past remains to some extent different from his previous work since it focuses on romantic relationships, failed ones, and the toll they take on the humans involved. Learning about the characters is a lot like meeting them in real life and hearing their stories: it’s hard to take sides or tell who’s wrong – you’d rather stay silent and try to make sense of it all.
This is a hard movie to describe, but I’ll do my best without giving too much away. The movie takes place in three separate segments that eventually come together. Half of the story takes place in Germany, half in Turkey, with almost all of the central six characters spending time in both countries while either searching for each other or trying to redeem themselves. Daughters search for their mothers (and vice versa) and one character’s actions will eventually bring everything more-or-less full circle. The film is as much about the characters though as it is about the cultural exchange happening between the two countries. If you have even a passing interest in films from this part of the world, I recommend giving this one a try.
Beginning with a great opening shot of townhouse on a side street in Paris, only ti discover that the shot is actually from a video sent to Anne and Georges Laurent (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil). The married couple who live in that house have no idea who sent the video. More videos appear and events unfold. I can’t say much more about this film without ruining it, it’s definitely one of those films better enjoyed if you go into it not knowing a lot. Directed by Michael Haneke who won the Cannes Best Director Award for it.
Winner of an Oscar and a Golden Globe among endless accolades, A Separation is the much celebrated movie about an Iranian couple faced with the decision of leaving the country for better opportunities or staying to take care of a sick parent. If you’ve ever been curious about the humans of Iran beyond the politics, and by cultural extension, humans of Middle-Eastern countries, watch A Separation.
But hold it, “An interesting foreign movie” is not how A Separation should be viewed (it’s not Slumdog Millionaire). As someone who grew up in a middle-class Muslim family, this film may be the only one to thoroughly portray many integral aspects of my upbringing. It perfectly depicts the delicate interaction between high moral standards and the realities of underdevelopment: how many bad people are only good people running out of options, and how parents raise their children in a shell of love and protection by keeping them away from the outside world while struggling to also introduce them to it. On a separate level, it also portrays how people live ready to have every privilege they have ever had revoked and how the constant need to “man up” transforms people, as well as the role of religion in all this.
A Separation is my movie, not yours. And so I am asking you to watch this film the same way I’d want you to come visit and get to know my home country.
There is a unique emotional approach to Danish films rarely matched by anything else, that has to be seen to be understood. Oscar-nominated After The Wedding perfectly embodies that. Jacob Peterson (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is an idealist who runs a financially struggling orphanage in India. He returns to Copenhagen to seek a large donation when he discovers that in order to get the money he will be unveiling dark secrets about his own personal past. Scenes are stretched, and feel incredibly realistic. But because of the great plot and premise as well as the fantastic cast, they’re never boring — on the contrary, After the Wedding is thrilling and at all times interesting. You will also feel that it is capturing every emotion you’ve ever encountered, or will ever encounter in the short two hours it spans.
Directed by celebrated artist-turned-fillmmaker Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the true story of French journalist and fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who suffered a devastating stroke at the age of 43. Almost completely paralyzed by what is termed “Locked-in Syndrome”, Bauby was left with only the operation of his left eye intact, leaving him forced to communicate via partner-assisted scanning (selection of each letter of the alphabet via blinking). Ultimately, Bauby employed this painstaking procedure to dictate his own memoir “Le Scaphandre et le Papillon”, which became a number one bestseller in Europe. The film alternates between Bauby’s interaction with his visitors and caretakers (including the dictation of his book) and his own dream-like fantasies and memories of his life prior to paralysis. With the title, Bauby uses the diving bell to represent his self-perceived state of isolation, akin to a deep-sea diver encased in an oxygenated chamber, and the corresponding butterfly to represent the freedom he enjoys as he often journeys quite magically through his own mind’s eye. It’s a somber yet engaging film full of heart and vision, featuring wonderful performances by the entire cast across the board.
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