International Cinema & The West

Films are a prominent form of media entertainment around the world and in the 21st century it is quite common to know that Hollywood Cinema definitely isn’t the only source for movie entertainment. Many countries have their own film industries and create content to correlate with the wants of their local audience, however many film companies will aim to please both international and domestic viewers.

In English speaking countries it is much less common to see an abundance of people yearning to watch international films in a foreign language, there seems to be a stigma towards international cinema and maybe us westerners are just too lazy to read subtitles. An indiewire.com article by Andy Kaufman in 2014 discussed this issue and about how US film audiences are continuously avoiding foreign films and being completely unaware of their existence due to reasons such as the digital availability of films on streaming services like Netflix and how this prevents foreign films from making it into US theaters, which is where most people tend to see them. I can see this trend being common in Australia too.

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Another reason western audiences tend to avoid foreign films is perhaps due to their low budget induced poor quality of production, this is prominent in the case of Nollywood, the Nigerien wave of cinema. Check out this trailer for a Nollywood movie ‘Spidergirl‘ and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s clear that this film and other Nollywood ‘movies’ are purely made for the domestic audience of Nigeria and have no interest in winning any kind of international film award. However international films like this shouldn’t steer a western audience away from foreign language cinema completely, I’m not sure about every genre, but in regards to horror, thriller and just downright graphic films, international film companies have produced some hidden gems.

The new wave of French extremism and horror has provided titles such as ‘Matyrs‘, ‘Irréversible‘ and ‘Frontier(s)‘, all movies that thriller fanatics have viewed as very watchable and entertaining movies. The Serbian film conveniently titled ‘A Serbian Film‘ is another international film that is more well known to western audiences but perhaps for all the wrong reasons, this one definitely isn’t for everyone, viewer discretion is HIGHLY advised.

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Perhaps one of, if not the most well known international film is the South Korean film ‘Oldboy‘, directed by Park Chan-wook. ‘Oldboy’ and films such as ‘The Host‘ and ‘Snowpiercer‘ are apart of the Korean wave of cinema that has truly brought with it a cultural significance to South Korea. Ryoo (2008, pp. 137-157) discusses how South Korea has become the 7th largest film industry in the world and how this is a sign that countries like South Korea “can find a niche and re-position itself as a cultural mediator in the midst of global cultural transformation”. Ryoo discussed this as apart of their contribution to Issue 2 of the Asian Journal of Communication.

I came across all of these movies via the YouTuber ‘Horrible Reviews‘, and I highly advise anyone wishing to learn more about international films to watch him and other YouTubers who review movies. These film reviews are just one method of how international film industries will get the attention from English speaking viewers they deserve. ‘Horrible Reviews’ has also reviewed every movie I mentioned in this post, I highly recommend his content, you can see his reviews for ‘Matyrs‘, ‘ ‘Irréversible‘, ‘Frontier(s)‘,  ‘A Serbian Film‘, ‘Oldboy‘, ‘The Host‘ and ‘Snowpiercerhere. ‘Horrible Reviews’ is also a great example of how international cinema has influenced global audiences, as he, a Dutch native, now reviews many films for his primarily English speaking audience.

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Reference list:

Kaufman, A 2014, ‘The Lonely Subtitle: Here’s Why U.S. Audiences Are Abandoning Foreign-Language Films’, IndieWire, 6 May, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://www.indiewire.com/2014/05/the-lonely-subtitle-heres-why-u-s-audiences-are-abandoning-foreign-language-films-27051/&gt;.

Ryoo, W 2008, ‘Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave’, Asian Journal of Communication, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 137-151.

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