Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fabulous Foreigners

Before I talk about the “fabulous foreigners” I want to thank everyone that attended the screening of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” on Saturday! We are getting an excellent turn-out (although there is always room for more!) and I am glad that the earlier films of Johnny Depp seem to be a crowd pleaser. The next film is “Ed Wood” and will be screened on July 14th (mark the date!).

Now on to those fabulous foreigners and by that I mean, of course, foreign films!! Last year was a spectacular year for foreign submissions for the Academy Awards. All five films are truly worth your time. Last years Foreign Language Oscars were notable on two counts: first, it was the first year that countries were officially allowed to submit movies in languages that were not indigenous to the submitting country. This allowed Canada to submit a Hindi-language film for the first time. And second, it was the first time that all of the foreign films had U.S. distribution from a major company. It is a “good thing” that more Americans seem to be appreciating foreign films and with films like these, how could you not!

After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet ) – Denmark
Jacob Petersen (the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen) has dedicated his life to helping street children in India. When the orphanage he heads is threatened by closure, he receives an unusual offer. A Danish businessman, Jørgen, offers him a donation of $4 million dollars. There are, however, certain conditions... (available at HBPL)

Days of Glory (Indigènes) – Algeria
During WWII, four North African men enlist in the French army to liberate that country from Nazi oppression, and to fight French discrimination. This film won the best actor award for its four key cast members at Cannes and ignited a debate about whether France had done right by these soldiers. The result was a change in French government policy bringing foreign combatant pensions into line with what French veterans are paid. Movies do make a difference! (Available at HBPL)

Water – Canada
The director of Water, Deepa Mehta, went through quite a bit to get this film made. Production was continually disrupted by religious fundamentalists who staged demonstrations, torched the filmmaker's sets, and threatened her life. Fortunately for us, she was not thwarted! This film examines the plight of a group of widows living in a temple in Varanasi in fundamentalist Hindu society in 1938. When a woman is widowed, she has three options: (1) to throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre, (2) to marry his brother (if he has one and it is permitted by the family), or (3) to live in poverty in a group home for widows. (Available at HBPL)

Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno ) – Mexico
Ofelia's mother tells her young daughter that she's getting too old for the fairytales she loves so much. But for Ofelia, living in the uncertainty of 1944 Spain and suspicious of her new stepfather, Captain Vidal, her books are more than just stories. They are a refuge from the grim everyday world, and as she and Carmen move to a remote military outpost to live with the captain, the books are a portal to her escape. (Available at HBPL)
Pan’s Labyrinth was really expected to take away the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year. Its’ international nominations were extensive as were its’ many wins. (see the IMDB for a list of wins/nominations http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/awards). And in another year it might have won…but it had the misfortune to be nominated the same year as:

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen ) – Germany
This film is set in the East Germany of 1984, five years before the Berlin Wall collapsed. It was a time when the terrifying Stasi, the secret police, made it their business to use an extensive network of spies and surveillance to know every secret thing about their citizens. Stasi Capt. Gerd Wiesler, is a true believer in the system. That is until he starts empathizing with those upon whose lives he is required to eavesdrop. (Available at HBPL on 8/21/07).
This Academy Award winner is worth the wait!