International Film: What does that even mean anymore??

January 14, 2020

ItI love films, like really love films.  I know American films make all the money, but international films are more critically acclaimed as far as I know.  Now, American movies make more money in theaters in other countries with our big budget films than they do in the states more and more.  But the days are long gone when foreign/international films made big money in America (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Amelie).  But in the days of streaming movies, one can only hope that these stellar foreign films find an audience elsewhere.

I took an International Film class once some 15+ years ago that I think about every once in awhile.  I wrote my big paper on Russian films and spent many a long hour watching boring Russian films.  Now, some interesting Russian based films have come out in the last couple years like the ballet movie about Russian ballerina Rudolf Nureyev, The White Crow,  Bridge of Spies, about a real true to life spy tale, and Death of Stalin.

I’m always interested in the Oscar, ie awards season and it’s so fascinating to see what countries are represented, not just in the foreign/international film category, but other categories.  Even if viewership is down from say 20 to 30 years, I think the Oscars is definitely more international than it used to be.

Now, I try to watch as many “international” films as I can.  BBC films makes a fair amount of movies set in other countries, such as the French based “Collette” and Russian based “Anna Karenina.”  But they all have English accents in them, despite the country of origin.  Thinking of American “international” films, (like Blood Diamond and Argo) they are more modern I reason, but they do try to have the correct language spoken (with subtitles) and that counts for a lot in my book.

I also saw a fascinating documentary called “The King” (2018) about Elvis Presley and his affect on America until today.  They mention that farming used to be the main export of America but now entertainment is.  Maybe this explains why international films aren’t put on the same pedestal that American films are.

Now, I study box office receipts of films every week and one aspect of this that always fascinates me is the international reception of American films.  And films that you wouldn’t really expect to have good international box office receipts have some serious credibility in other countries.  Small films like “Sunshine Cleaning” and last year’s “Pain and Glory” do incredibly well despite their low budgets.

Of course, we have Latin America and South America so close by that you would think we’d have more Spanish films come out, but I wonder do Latinos in America want to watch that kind of movie?  The films that I know of to come out of Spanish countries are relatively small (like “Motorcycle Diaries, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Roma,” etc…)  I see in the box office lists that Indian films are sometimes in the top ten these last few years, so I wonder if those are Bollywood influenced at all?

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