Foreign films break new ground


Photo courtesy of IMDb

Japanese film “Drive My Car” has been nominated in this years Best Picture category at the Oscars, making it only the 13th international film in the history of the award show to considered for the award.

Cultures around the world are more connected to one another than ever, and nowhere is this more obvious than with the meteoric rise of foriegn media.

The 2020 Best Picture win for “Parasite” from South Korean director Bong Joon Ho was the first time a foreign language film had won the most prestigious award at the Oscars, and has been touted as one of the best movies to be released in the last decade with both critical and audience appeal.

But this is not a one-off outlier: films like 2018’s “Roma,” a black-and-white movie set in Mexico City during the seventies, is entirely in Spanish and also found a large amount of success with general audiences. Foreign films are becoming more and more accepted as legitimate productions that can draw audiences and win awards, but many can still not break into the mainstream, so what do students think about them?

A reason often cited for foreign films not reaching the same popularity as domestic films is the language barrier. Audiences have to follow along on the bottom of the screen while listening for tone, and can sometimes miss what is going on onscreen. Some students have a more positive perspective.

“I think subtitles can add to foriegn films, they allow viewers to appreciate the film in its original state,” junior Chloe Krensky said.

While “Parasite” may have won the Best Picture award in 2020, many have criticized award shows for not giving foreign media recognition for the most prestigious general categories. Brazilian film “City of God”, despite being acclaimed as one of the best films from the 2000s and being in IMDB’s top 25 films of all time according to users, never even picked up a best picture nomination.

Another interesting discussion is how much foreign films can teach others about the culture of the country they originate from.

“Watching foreign films helps me connect with my cultures; watching movies by Korean directors with a mostly Korean cast taught me about their struggles, history and their own point of view. It’s refreshing to get representation.” junior Charlotte Brown said.

Foreign films have also started an interesting but to be expected trend in Hollywood: remakes. An American remake for the extremely popular Korean zombie film “Train to Busan” has been announced, set to release in 2023 under the title “Last Train to New York”. This has caused concern for many who enjoy foreign films.

“I dislike that idea, I don’t really see the point. It’s not a movie like Parasite. There’s not a lot of Korean aspects in that movie, so it could be made, but I don’t see a point because they could just watch the original; it’s a kind of whitewashing.” Brown said.

Some students agree that the practice is not just unnecessary, but harmful to the foriegn film industry. “I don’t like that foreign films are getting American remakes personally. Sometimes when they get remade, the remake gets more famous, and the original doesn’t get the credit.” junior Maya Gayrán Quiroz said.

While foriegn films have certainly found their audiences in recent years, the future of their popularity in America is still uncertain. With the continuing issue of subtitles for many viewers and the possibility of remakes outperforming original films, it could be the case that they never fully break into the mainstream. But many are holding out hope for their success, with the representation for other cultures being an advantage that many domestic films are incapable of bringing to the table.