Your map to the world of foreign cinema


Foreign cinema has become more accessible over the last few years, thanks to streaming sites like Netflix. Film festivals pride themselves on showing the best films from all over the world and Glasgow Film Festival is full of amazing new films in assortment of different languages. This year’s Young Selectors titles include two amazing foreign films – Casablanca Beats and Zalava.

From Bollywood to French New Wave, there are so many films that played an important part in the creation of world cinema. If you watch enough in the same language, you could even start picking up on certain words or phrases!

Some people tend to shy away from watching films with subtitles, meaning they are missing out from some truly remarkable stories from all over the globe. However, it’s understandable that taking on a whole new genre of film can seem a little daunting

To make your trip into the world of foreign cinema, here are some to get you started:

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The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
Country: France
Director: Jacques Demy

Packed full of beautiful radiant colours, catchy tunes and outstanding choreography, The Young Girls of Rochefort is a perfect start for getting into French New Wave.

The movie follows Delphine and Solange, twin sisters living in the small seaside town of Rochefort. They leave after befriending a couple of carnival workers, where they are hired to sing at the carnival. Solange falls in love with an American musician, in hopes that it will propel her career in becoming a songwriter, while Delphine is on the hunt for her own ideal man.

The Young Girls of Rocefort has been cited by many directors as an inspiration to their movies, the most notable being Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.

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Life is Beautiful

Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Country: Italy
Director: Roberto Benigini

Italian cinema has influenced film movements worldwide and some cite it as the birthplace of Art Cinema. Art Cinema is often defined as an artistic or experimental piece of work, often expressing symbolic meaning through the medium of the film.

A great place to start would with Life is Beautiful. Staring Roberto Benigni, one of Italy’s most popular actors, it’s a beautiful and unforgettable story that proves love, imagination and family can conquer anything. Set during the Holocaust, a Jewish family are sent to a concentration camp where the father uses humour to make light of the situation, convincing his son that it’s all just a game and nothing to worry about.

While dealing with such a sensitive subject, it balances both comedy and drama to an appropriate level. The depiction of family life through a trouble time, the father-son bond and being accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack makes it one of the biggest tearjerkers in Italian cinema (so have your tissues ready!)

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Let the Right One In

Let The Right One In (2008)
Country: Sweden
Director: Tomas Alfredson

This one is for the horror and supernatural fans. We have a great selection of this genre of movie playing at Glasgow Film Festival this year – including Zalava – as well as the return of FrightFest!

In this romantic-horror, set in the 1980s just outside of Stockholm, Oskar, an outsider, meets his new mysterious neighbour, Eli. Initially they are rather reserved with each other but end up creating an inseparable bond. However, Eli is definitely not an ordinary young girl, as she only appears at night in the snow-covered playground. What would be revealed later changes the course of their relationship forever.

Let The Right One In explores the exclusion and isolation that’s associated with being an outsider, and how it can be overcome through mutual support and empathy. While these themes aren’t niche, they’re explored in a unique and fascinating way.

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A Separation

A Separation (2011)
Country: Iran
Director: Asghar Farhadi

Asghar Farhadi has become one of Iran’s most established filmmakers. He is known for making movies on the human condition and creating challenging stories on family conflict.

A Separation follows Nader and Simin who are in the midst of going through a divorce. Simin wants to leave Iran with their daughter, but Nader doesn’t allow it as his father is terminally ill. He hires a young woman called Razieh to look after his father, but things don’t go to plan and it leads to a series of complicated events.

The movie was met with rave reviews upon its premiere and went on to win the Golden Bear (top prize) at Berlin Film Festival. It later became the first ever film from Iran to win the Best International Feature award at the Oscars.

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Cold War

Cold War (2018)
Country: Poland
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Shot in crisp black and white and a 4:3 aspect ratio, Cold War is a visual treat.

Loosely based around the story of Pawlikowski’s own parents, set between the late 1940s and early 1960s against the backdrop of the Cold War, it follows a man and a woman of mismatched backgrounds, exploring their love over the years. It’s a broken love story set around broken people in a broken country. It will make your heart swell and break it concurrently.

It’s like Casablanca meets the Before trilogy. Everything about the movie is mesmerising, from the shots to the music. Simply stunning. In just a short 90-minute runtime there’s nothing that feels underdeveloped.

Poland tends to be one of the more overlooked countries when it comes to their movies. While many of their films do tend to be on the depressing side, there are so many beautiful stories that are must-sees, including Cold War!

These are just a few of the many, many great foreign language titles that are a must-watch, and a great introduction into the country’s movie industry! Like the great Bong Joon-Ho, director of the Korean marvel Parasite, once said: 'Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.'


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