~Kyle J. Bowman~
I don’t ever hesitate to watch foreign films. A lot of people are put off by the idea that they are in a different language, but in reality if it’s a good movie, you will remember it in English. I can’t explain this phenomenon since I’m not a psychology major, but just try it some time and you’ll see what I mean. I digress though; let’s get right into it since I’ve got five movies to cover and only so much space.
Opening night was Maria Full of Grace, which is a Colombian-American film. This makes it our Spanish representative, and it certainly did a fair job at kicking off the festival. The movie chronicles the life of a young girl as she gets pregnant and tries to find out what she wants out of life as a result. This would be a pretty stereotypical plot, except for the fact that she gets involved in drug trafficking shortly into the film, serving as a mule for bringing cocaine into the US. To say that mixes things up would probably be a severe understatement. The acting was fantastic and highly realistic, but unfortunately her situation never seems horribly dire. It seems as though she’s living in a world where everyone with power is very hesitant to use it, which isn’t terribly realistic. Overall though, I’d say the acting made up for that and made it a fairly good watch.
The next night of the festival gave us Howl’s Moving Castle, made by legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. I’m not one for saying that the visuals of a movie should be their selling point, but by the beard of Zeus, this one has some legendary visuals in terms of animation. The world that it takes place in is just so full of life, to the point where actually summing up the plot would be a very daunting task. Just about anything can and will happen in this world inhabited by fairly modern technology and magic alike. It’s actually a hell of a movie, and I would recommend it even if you have nothing but a remote interest in animation.
Third up was the award winning French film, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, or its American title, simply Amélie. It’s another movie with a plot that’s a little hard to explain due to the variety of levels to it. If I had to describe it simply, it is a slice of life movie. It follows the life of a girl by the name of Amélie Poulain, first showing a bit of her childhood and then jumping to her adulthood, where she is lonely and withdrawn, but very interesting just the same. We see her interact with many people in her life, and have a fairly major impact on every one of them. It was a great film, its pacing had a way of making you live in the moment, and provided a great opportunity for you to dedicate yourself to the film’s overall message of “enjoy the little things”.
Cinema Paradiso was there to represent Italy on night number four. If I was in any position to judge the festival, I would put it at third place behind Amélie and Howl’s Moving Castle. It shows us the life of a fictional famous director named Salvatore Di Vita, nicknamed ‘Toto’ by his community and loved ones. It shows him grow up loving movies from the moment he is a small child, sneaking in to watch his priest screen and censor them. He finds a lifelong friend in the projectionist, named Alfredo. Alfredo stresses to him that being a projectionist is not a future to search for, and constantly urges him to leave his hometown for a better life. This is a great movie about the concept of nostalgia and how much it can drive a person’s life if they don’t break away from it.
Unfortunately, the only movie that I didn’t like of the entire festival was not only the last one shown, but was also the only one shown in English. The Chinese Box is a movie about a European reporter with Leukemia staying in Hong Kong during the city’s handover to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. In my opinion, it spread itself far too thin. The film makes a point of having several different plotlines going at once, which can be used to great effect in some movies, but this one had the major fault of not focusing on any given one. A movie has to have one overreaching plotline to tie the small ones back into, otherwise it’s just a series of unrelated events. I feel like they could’ve used the civil unrest of the handover to fill that role, but unfortunately that ends up having the same importance as every other subplot.
Overall, seeing foreign films is quite an experience. When people ordinarily think of them, they think of people talking about foreign struggles that they wouldn’t relate to if the movies were in the language that they speak. Let me just say it flat out: that is not the case! Four out of five of these movies were about fictional people in fictional worlds, making them just as relatable as anything we could go see in a theater in this country. Since I think it’s a powerful concept, I’m going to repeat the fact that I remember every one of these movies in English, despite the fact that I saw them in four different languages! It’s incredible, and I recommend those first four to anyone who is interested in seeing some foreign films. They are excellent movies on a global scale, and they know no racial barrier. They are all very relatable, unique, and incredibly worth seeing.
The Flim Festival was sponsored by the International Club.