We live in a world where Hollywood cinema is constantly flooding us, and more often than not, we are forced to see the same plot devices, exploration of themes and gimmicks over and over again. Hence, this is why a considerable amount of people consider foreign language films a last resort, as well as source of unconventional ideas and truly capturing and unfamiliar stories.
There are numerous foreign language films that have went on to receive widespread critical acclaim, box-office success and Oscar buzz and this is not an article about those movies. Instead, here are five lesser-known foreign language films which are definitely worthy of your time (all factual information is a courtesy of IMDB:
1. Accattone (1961)
- Country of origin: Italy
- Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Synopsis: A pimp with no other means to provide for himself finds his life spiraling out of control when his girlfriend (and prostitute) is sent to prison.
Themes explored: Peasant culture, bridging The gap between sacred and profane, neorealism
Fun fact: Accatone (1961) marks Pier Paolo Pasolini's first feature film as a director and establishes characteristics which would later go on to become his trademarks, such as focusing on impoverished individuals and casting non-professional actors.
2. Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998)
Countries of origin: France, Belgium Luxembourg, Latvia and Hungary
- Director: Michel Ocelot
Synopsis: In a troubled African village, an unusual baby is born, who turns out to be the only one who can stop the witch that has cursed the village.
Themes explored: West African folklore, cultural boundaries, transnationality, prejudices that the West holds about Africa
Fun fact: Michel Ocelot originally envisioned Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) as a merely silhouette animation and wrote the initial script of the film with this type of presentation in mind.
3. Tulpan (2008)
Country of origin: Kazakhstan
- Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy
Synopsis: In the middle of nowhere in the Kazakh steppe, a young man wants to become a nomadic shepherd. However, in order to get his own flock and independence, he must get married. Unfortunately the only eligible girl living anywhere near his sister’s family is the feisty Tulpan, who would do anything but marry Asa.
Themes explored: Nomadic lifestyle, naturalism, poetic realism, a world lost in time and space, increasingly fading away more and more into the past.
Fun fact: Tulpan (2008) was Kazakhstan's 2009 Academy Awards official submission for the Foreign-Language Film category.
4. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Country of origin: Spain
- Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Synopsis: A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
Themes explored: Betrayal, anxiety, loneliness, sexual identity and death
Fun fact: In one scene Dr. Ledgard is shown working on a bonsai tree. Bonsai is the art of creating spectacularly twisted dwarf trees, contrary to their natural patterns, by manipulating their nutrition, growing conditions and with ruthless pruning, which in fact mirrors Dr. Ledgard's experiments.
5. Bogowie (2014)
- Country of origin: Poland
- Director: Lukasz Palkowski
Synopsis: A depiction of the early career of cardiac surgeon Zbigniew Religa. Despite harsh reality of the 1980s Poland, he successfully leads a team of doctors to the country's first human heart transplantation.
Themes explored: Trying to achieve your goals and dreams during a communist regime when the political system is against you, dedication, obsession, the value of life
Fun fact: The film is based on real events, namely on the efforts of Polish cardiac surgeon Dr. Zbigniew Religa and his co-workers. After the fall of communism in Poland, in 1993 Religa was elected as senator, and in 2005 he even became the Polish Minister of Health.