ByAlex Leptos, writer at Creators.co
I like deep characters and thought provoking stories, horror/ world cinema. Also a lifelong pro wrestling fan. Instagram: @alexleptos_art
Alex Leptos

With award season in full swing, films and music are being celebrated for their great successes and their failures (we can't forget the !). Pertaining to film, the most prestigious of these ceremonies is the , or . However, if we can just move away from Hollywood for a second (I seem to do that a lot), and explore the rest of this huge world, we'll see that there are so many films produced each year that come from all continents and cultures. Sure, they can't possibly all be recognized, but it's often a shame that such beautiful pieces get lost in the massive shuffle. I'm trying to avoid saying that they should get more "mainstream attention" because there are a lot of foreign-to-us films that got a lot of mainstream attention in their native countries.

With that in mind, let's take a look at at some of them from just the past few years (excluding films that did get nominated for US awards) Also, there is absolutely no way that I could possibly include all of the films that I'd want to include, so, in the spirit of award season, I'm focusing on the ones that especially excel in one or two particular areas.

1. 'Suburra' (2015)

'Suburra' [Credit: 01 Distribution]
'Suburra' [Credit: 01 Distribution]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Cinematography

Italian-French neo-noir is a bit of a social commentary on the ties between politics and organized crime in Rome in 2011. It is directed by Stefano Sollima, earning him a Nastro d'Argento for Best Director and is based on the novel of the same name.

This film boasts a brilliant and complex story with convincing characters whose stories all intertwine with a real sense of harsh realities. The most noticeable thing about this film however, is just how beautiful it looks. From the neon lights of the nightclubs to the peaceful oceans, all that hide the dark secrets of the city. Suburra looks like a comic book and oozes style and atmosphere that is a bit Boardwalk Empire, a bit John Wick and a bit Godfather. If you're a fan of movies with political drama and hard-hitting violence, Suburra is your next one to check out.

2. 'Kotoko' (2011)

'Kotoko' [Credit: Third Window Films]
'Kotoko' [Credit: Third Window Films]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Camera Work

Japanese film Kotoko by Shinya Tsukamoto had its premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and became the first Japanese film to win the Best Film award in the festival's Orizzonti section. is the titular character and suffers from a condition that causes her to see double vision and unable to tell which of them is real.

Kotoko's condition is further sold through the often indie-like camera work that becomes shakier and progressively more unstable and chaotic as Kotoko's situation and mindset intensifies and gets worse. She is the only character that you are with through most of the film and — along with the feel of isolation that is created through this — the camera work really helps immerse you into Kotoko's broken mind as you find yourself getting dizzy along with her.

3. 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' / دختری در شب تنها به خانه می‌رود‎‎ (2014)

 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' [Credit: VICE Films]
'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' [Credit: VICE Films]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Cinematography

Multi award-winning A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour is a Persian-language throwback vampire flick in the vein of classics like Nosferatu. In terms of more recent films, A Girl shares similarities with one of 2016's hidden gems, The Eyes of My Mother. (Which also deserves your attention!)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has a much larger focus on atmosphere, emotion and underlying meanings than pushing along a story, which is aided by its uses of high-contrast black and white and lots of eerie lighting. Paired with the psychedelic and in-your-face music, even when little to nothing is really happening as you watch, you can't help but feel as if you are seeing something iconic unfold before you, and that's a feeling you don't get often. demands that, and it should be viewed in no other way.

4. 'The Wailing' / 곡성 (2016)

'The Wailing' [Credit: 20th Century Fox Korea]
'The Wailing' [Credit: 20th Century Fox Korea]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Cinematography/Performances

Na Hong-jin's multi-award winning The Wailing puts most Western horrors to shame, making them seem unimaginative and simple. has so much going for it. It's creepy as all-heck and doesn't even try to sugar-coat anything that it does. It made me uncomfortably squirm in my seat, gave me chills and made me hold my breath.

The film is visually stunning and the performances provided are among the best I have ever seen. Other than the central performance of Kwak Do-won as shy and mild-mannered policeman Jong-goo, Chun Woo-hee continues to shine as her career continues to sky-rocket. The Wailing also manages to seamlessly blend a collection of genres into its two-and-a-half-hour run time. It's a cop drama, it's a mystery thriller and it's a biblically-driven horror all at the same time — glorious. Also, I can't tell you how many times I have re-watched the last 15 minutes or so — chills every time.

5. 'The Handmaiden' / 아가씨 (2016)

'The Handmaiden' [Credit: CJ Entertainment]
'The Handmaiden' [Credit: CJ Entertainment]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/All artistic areas

Widely successful South Korean director Park Chan-wook's (Oldboy) latest, The Handmaiden already has a number of awards to its name, but was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film this year, which is a crime — a damn crime, I tell you! Adapted from the novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters and altering the setting to fit Korea, is one of the best films to come out of last year.

The art direction, set design and architecture, costumes and makeup make this film visually mesmerizing, and Chan-wook's ability to pull off and — in this case — blend so many different filmmaking styles together is one of many reasons why he is so popular among audiences all over the world. The Handmaiden uses traits of both art-house and mainstream film making in particular.

The art-house traits presented here include long shots and facial closeups with a focus on emotion, then to keep the general audiences interested, there is the classic forbidden love story, the theme of revenge and plot twists for days. The attention to detail is gorgeous as is the editing, as we seamlessly move between each characters perspective. The Handmaiden is an experience that everybody should have.

6. 'Han Gong-Ju' / 한공주 (2013)

'Han Gong-ju' [Credit: CGV Movie Collage/Third Window Films]
'Han Gong-ju' [Credit: CGV Movie Collage/Third Window Films]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Performances

Yes, I like South Korean cinema. Han Gong-ju is Lee Su-jin's heartbreaking and emotion-driven directorial debut. It is a true story about a girl who is dealing with a traumatic event, attempting to move on. It also marks Chun Woo-hee's Blue Dragon-winning first starring role. Woo-hee has since risen to the top of South Korean cinema.

The film deals with a very serious and particularly emotional subject, and the central character needed to be somebody who you felt sorry for and whose side you were on. Woo-hee gives so much life to this girl, dragging you in until your emotions are exhausted. You get sucked right into her mindset — her desperation to move on and her optimism that she could — and the harsh realization deep down that she may truly never will, her struggles to trust and her hesitation to get close to anybody. It's also a bit of a social commentary of South Korea's corrupt legal system at the time. even got praise from Martin Scorsese, one of the finest filmmakers of our time:

"'Han Gong-ju' is outstanding in Mise-en scene, image, sound, editing and performance. I have a lot to learn from this movie and I can’t wait to see Lee Su-jin’s next film”

7. 'The Tribe' / Плем'я (2014)

'The Tribe' [Credit: Arthouse Traffic]
'The Tribe' [Credit: Arthouse Traffic]

Should be particularly recognized for: Direction/Performances

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe is unlike anything that I've ever seen, and likely unlike anything I'll ever see again. Not only is it not in the English language, The Tribe isn't in any form of verbally spoken language at all. The film takes place in a boarding school for deaf students, so the film is entirely in Ukrainian sign language. But wait, there's more: absent too are any subtitles or translations of any kind. You are just left with your eyes and your interpretation. It probably sounds more complicated than it is, so let me continue by saying that despite all that, the plot isn't difficult to follow. Sure, there were certainly times where I couldn't be one hundred percent certain what was being said, but within the context of the story, it's not hard to get the gist of what the characters are talking about.

is about a new boy, Sergey, who arrives at the school and is quite quiet and shy. He soon finds himself thrust into the hierarchy of the school community, which operates like a Mafiosi group, and trying to find his place among it. Things progress, becoming more disturbing as they go.

'The Tribe' [Credit: Arthouse Traffic]
'The Tribe' [Credit: Arthouse Traffic]

The fact that The Tribe wasn't nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards caused quite a stir, and it's clear to see why. This is one of the most daring films that has ever been produced. Huge applause has to be given to Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy to shoot a film with an entirely deaf cast and most of them being first-time actors. Of course, we have to give huge praise to said cast of the film, who don't have their voices to convey emotion — they have only their facial expressions and their body language.

The silence of the film and the lack of any sort of soundtrack gave this film the feeling of watching it through a live stream without audio, like surveillance footage. There's a lot of criminal activity here and it has this eerie feel of the students using code to stay under the radar. The Tribe was a bit of a risk well worth taking and is just as compelling (if not more so) as any "talking" film.

Honorable Mention: 'Love Exposure' / 愛のむきだし (2008)

'Love Exposure' [Credit: Omega Project]
'Love Exposure' [Credit: Omega Project]

is quite possibly my favorite film of all time and it excels in a lot of ways, but because there is so damn much going on, I would honestly have no idea where to categorize it. Sion Sono is one of the bravest, most unique and most daring filmmakers working in the industry today. This, his four-hour-long tale of love, sex, self-discovery, religion, dedication, pornography and evil cults is one of the most insane, outrageous, offensive, intense and hilarious films that you'll ever see. I think that A Taste of Cinema said it best:

"The filmic equivalent of a cocaine-laced double espresso."

An experience that everybody should have at least once.

What are some other non-English language films that deserve more recognition? Let us know!

'The Handmaiden' [Credit: CJ Entertainment]
'The Handmaiden' [Credit: CJ Entertainment]

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