10 International Films: Travel from your Couch
A few weeks ago, I set out to be more intentional about watching international movies. I was motivated to do so mostly out of curiosity, to see what other spaces were doing for film. But I was also tired of binge watching shows and really wanted to diversify my streaming recommendations. So I set out watching different movies and definitely fell too in love with some genres (my Netflix was really heavy Bollywood for a moment) and began compiling lists of some of my favorites.
Here is a list of TEN INTERNATIONAL FILMS that stretch across the globe and offer a variety of different themes and vibes. **This list certainly is not to be seen as a list of the BEST, but instead a solid batch of movies that will keep you entertained from start to finish.
1. Rudhramadevi (India/Telugu, 2015)
Running time: 2 hours and 38 minute - Netflix
So I have a slight weakness for Bollywood action films and really struggled with not wanting to add more to this list. But if I could recommend one, it would be Rudhramadevi. The film is based on the true story of Rudrama Devi - one of the few ruling queens of India who pretended she was a man for the sake of keeping her kingdom safe in the 13th century.
It’s your quintessential ‘men ain’t shit and never trust women in leadership’ movie where a fierce queen (Anushka Shetty) proves that she has what it takes to lead her people. And I must say, I immediately became infatuated with Shetty and found myself needing to see her in more action after watching this movie (luckily, Netflix has Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and she is just as phenomenal in that, if not more so because she literally reads people for filth left and right). Watch this movie because she whoops all ass and then some.
2. Esteban (Cuba, 2016)
Running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes - Hulu/HBO
Esteban is such a cute movie to get all emotional and sentimental about. It follows a little 10-year-old boy named Esteban (Reynaldo Guanche), who helps his struggling mother (Yuliet Cruz) sell off-market beauty supplies. He soon stumbles across a stubborn pianist (Manuel Porto) and becomes obsessed with playing himself, aware that he can’t really afford the 50 pesos-per-class rate. He’s of course a gifted child and able to quickly pick up the instrument, so you know he’ll do whatever to get his hands on a piano.
This movie is fantastic for a number of reason. I really enjoyed the soundtrack, a number of selections emphasizing the power and grace of the piano. There was one character that I was immediately infatuated with (who I have not yet mentioned), who truly wound up being my favorite character by the end of the film. Esteban is one word - determined - and it is great seeing this little brown boy chase his dreams and aspire for better for his mom.
I loved this movie. It was beautiful. It was simple and it was elegant. Truly a gem
3. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (South Korea, 2017)
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes - Hulu
This movie is the second-highest grossing domestic film of all time in South Korea, so you don’t even have to take my word for how marvelous it is but I will still tell it!
WHEW CHILE THE TEARS. I am an emotional wreck when it comes to a moving film, and I’ll be honest, this movie HAD ME GOING THROUGH IT! Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is actually the 1st part of a two-part series, based off a webtoon by Joo Ho-min. The second installment is already out, but I am still recovering from the first movie.
Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is an absolutely stunning visual film about an honorable fireman (Cha Tae-Hyun) who dies and is ushered through the afterlife by three grim reapers, Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, and Kim Hyang-gi. The fireman is judged in seven trials in 49 days in hopes that if he passes, he’ll be reincarnated. The trials look back over his life, exploring his relationship with family members and his dedication to his work. I can’t even begin to really explain how this movie made me feel, all I can really say is I may or may not have genuinely had snot going down my nose from crying so hard. AND I HAVE NO SHAME.
4. Psychokinesis/염력 (South Korea, 2018)
Running time: 1 hour and 41 minutes - Netflix
Of all the movies on the list, I felt like Psychokinesis was the most socially conscious. The movie clearly addresses the class system as local small-shop owners duke it out against a corporate construction company that runs like a mob. Throw in family conflict between one of the shop owners (Shim Eun-Kyung) and her estranged father (Ryu Seung-ryong) - who inherits crazy powers for the sole purpose of helping her - and you have a deeply moving film that will leave you in tears. The movie even tackles police brutality and features a badass villainess, Jung Yu-mi, who doesn’t have to lift a finger to get what she wants. Plus there is fried chicken included, and I fully endorse that stereotype so what’s really good.
5. Love on Delivery/破壞之王 (Hong Kong - 1994)
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes - Netflix
I am absolutely obsessed with Stephen Chow. I grew up on his hilarious 2001 classic ‘Shaolin Soccer’ followed up with the insanely brilliant ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ in 2004. The man knows action and comedy and has over 30 years of movies to prove it.
Which brings me to ‘Love on Delivery,’ a 1994 film where Chow plays a feeble delivery boy who falls in love with a woman (Christy Chung) who has to deal with imposing fuqbois at her judo center. Chow’s character desperately wants to woo the woman, but she quickly lets him know that he isn’t about that life and that he is too weak for her. Of course, not able to afford actual judo classes (because low wages are real for delivery folk across the globe), Chow teams up with a goofy convenience shop owner (Ng Man Tat aka the coach from Shaolin Soccer) and is bamboozled out of all of his money for phony lessons. Of course, foolishness ensues as he tries to apply his new moves in hopes of proving himself and if there is one thing Chow knows - it’s foolishness. Chow is the star of the film, but he also happens to be the director of this comedic goofball of a movie.
6. The Fly/ Eega/ Makkhi (India,2012)
Running time: 1 hour and 58 minutes - Netflix
Makkhi was a HOT MESS that I just wanted to see how much it would try to rip from the more famously known American film ‘The Fly’ (it does not). So this man is in love with a woman (Samantha Akkineni) who has caught the attention of some douchebag bent on being possessive. Douchebag (Sudeep) then decides to kill the man (Nani) because of course, that’s what you do when you want someone. But SURPRISE, Nani gets reincarnated as a fly and decides to carry out revenge on the douchebag. Now, watching a computerized insect harass a dimwit may seem strange (because it is) but this movie works somehow. I wasn’t really feeling the beginning, but by the end, I was roped all the way in.
7. Bon Bini Holland (Curacao and Holland, 2015)
Running time: 1 hour and 25 minutes - Netflix
Now I’ll be honest… I first clicked on this movie because I thought it was a Wayans movie because ALL BLACK PEOPLE LOOK ALIKE OBVIOUSLY. But boy was I not prepared for this foolishness.
Bon Bini follows Curaçao scam artist Antillean Robertico (Jandino Asporaat) as he goes on the run from the mafia to go live with family in Holland. By family - I mean his larger than life aunt Judeska (also played by Asporaat), who works at a fried chicken shop (a bit Asporaat is actually known for). Asporaat actually plays several more outlandish characters throughout the movie, giving slight Dutch Eddie Murphy vibes. Anyway, while in Holland, Antillean meets a wealthy businessman named Ken Maduro (Dennis Rudge). Maduro also comes from the island and has a daughter named Noella (Liliana de Vries) that Antillean is immediately smitten with. Of course, being a scam artist, the movie follows Antillean trying to pull a fast one while in Holland.
Unlike other movies that emphasize black men and their over dramatization of black women, Bon Bini focuses a LOT more on Robertico and his ambition than solely making Judeska the butt of every joke. There are so many crazy depictions of characters, that you won’t do anything but laugh at the levels of chaos in the film.
8. The Visit (Nigeria - 2015)
Running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes - Netflix
Thank you Nigeria! I needed messy drama and you answered with ‘The Visit’ - a comedy thriller that literally had me shouting at the TV until the very last cliffhanger of an ending.
We’re introduced to Chidi (Femi Jacobs) and Eugenia (Bhaira Mcwizu) and they are BEYOND BOUGIE. I could not get over Eugenia’s mannerisms alone and when she talked, you could feel the ‘I’m better than you sentiment.’ Anyway, they maintain a very tight schedule and have a mundane existence. But they live next to the most rambunctious couple named Ajiri (Nse Ikpe-Etim) and Lanre Shagaya (Blossom Chukwujekwu). These people literally were doing the most. From outdoor sex scenes to literally smoking upon entering a new room, I just could not even deal. Well, of course the conservative couple can’t stand them and Eugenia has about had it when the loud couple damages their property.
The Visit really picks up at this point, as the bulk of the movie literally surrounds the loud couple visiting the others to apologize for the damage. I really can’t say too much more because all the following scenes after, are just shocking. You definitely need to get into this movie.
9. He Even Has Your Eyes/Il a déjà tes yeux (France, 2017)
Running time: 1 hour and 35 minutes - Netflix
A weird part of me has always wondered how the scenario that played out in ‘He Even Has Your Eyes’ would look in real life. A black couple adopting a white baby and how that would look in society and how they would endure prejudices and the works. Finding this movie, and set in France no less, was a pleasant and joyful ride filled with laughter, anger, sadness and more.
French-African couple Paul (Lucien Jean-Baptiste) and Salimata Aloka (Aïssa Maïga) have been waiting to adopt a baby for four years. Soon, they learn that they’ve been given a son named Benjamin - who is white. The couple welcomes the baby with open arms but have to deal with the incessant nagging of a racist social worker Claire Mallet (Zabou Breitman ), along with initial rejection from Sali’s religious parents.
I found the movie to be really cute and thought provoking, as I had to check myself a little at first when watching the film. It was interesting watching these Black parents fight for their rights and for the little Benjamin. But the film has enough high and low moments to really keep you engage and rooting for this family.
10. The Sapphires (Australia - 2012)
Running time: 1 hour and 43 minutes - Amazon Prime Video/Google Play/iTunes
This is essentially the Australian version of Dreamgirls so yes I own this movie and yes the soundtrack too.
The Sapphires follows Julie, Gail and Cynthia (Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman and Miranda Tapsell), three sisters who want to be a country music group. While Gail is the oldest, Julie is clearly the most talented. The trio get discovered by a talent competition emcee named Dave (Chris O’Dowd) who calls out the blatant racism used against them to prevent them from winning. Dave notices, however, that the group is BLACK (because diaspora) and convinces them to switch to soul music. Julie prepositions for him to manage them for a shot to go to Vietnam and sing for the United States and he embarks on teaching them about all the hottest soul music acts from Motown, etcetera. The trio need help from their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), who was snatched from her home by the government because she could pass for white. So there is family conflict based on colorism and how Kay perceives herself as the group tries to make it.
This film has JAMS FOR DAYS and allows us to see how racism and prejudice has played out in another part of the world. I found the themes surrounding blackness as it spans across the globe to be enriching as I sat back and really took in how far and wide our folks have made it. The movie has some great messages and it is always nice to feel good after a feel good movie.