by Fiona Rose Beyerle
Even though you cannot physically pack up and travel right now, these films all provide incredible storytelling from different worldwide perspectives. The best part is that there are quite a few films to be discovered that offer compelling stories and perhaps a chance to practice a language you studied but have not practiced in a while. Without further ado, here is a short list of (not so popular) international films to enjoy!
I Am Not a Witch (2017)
Director: Rungano Nyoni
Languages: English, Bemba, and Nyanja
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play
Synopsis: Set in a local village in Zambia, a mysterious eight-year-old girl named Shula shows up and is accused of witchcraft. She is soon found guilty and promptly placed in a witch camp.
Why you should watch this film: After watching this at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival, I have spent the past few years searching for it on the internet waiting for it to be released. This is a film that should be known. Rungano Nyoni delivers this story with authenticity and moving symbolism that stays with you.
(The official movie poster for I Am Not a Witch.)
The Way He Looks (2014)
Director: Daniel Ribeiro
Language: Brazilian Portuguese
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes
Synopsis: A blind high school student named Leo longs for independence. When a new student named Gabriel arrives, everyone instantly falls for him including Leo.
Why you should watch this film: This is one of the cutest films! You will fall in love with these sweet characters. Another thing I love about this film is that it is not only a love story, but also focuses on friendship and working through the balancing act of friendships, jealousy, and new romances.
(The official poster for The Way He Looks, written in Portuguese.)
My Life as a Courgette (2016)
Director: Claude Barras
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and Netflix
Synopsis: Icare is sent to live in a foster home after a tragedy strikes. Icare informs the police officer he meets that he wants to be called “courgette” (meaning zucchini in French) since this is the nickname his mother gave him. Courgette befriends the other children and learns about their stories and problems as he works through his own.
Why you should watch this film: Though this is an animated film, it is not for children. This film deals with tough conversations surrounding alcoholism, violence, sexuality, and other mature content. That being said, this film manages to balance sadness with sweetness. What makes this film interesting is an accurate perspective of children dealing with these hardships. Oftentimes, I believe that films gloss over children dealing with grief by writing it off as a lack of understanding. This film chooses to dive into the depth of emotions the children feel as they struggle.
(The official poster for the film, written in French.)
Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Language: Canadian French
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes
Synopsis: Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, steps up to fill the role of an elementary school teacher after a suicide occurs. Lazhar helps the students work through their loss as we simultaneously learn about his own tragedy before coming to Canada.
Why you should watch this film: If you are looking for a feel-good film, this is not your film. If you are looking for a heart-wrenching yet incredible film, this is a must-watch. Not only is the main character an amazing actor, but the children are also all wonderful in their roles.
(The official movie poster for Monsieur Lazhar.)
Director: Joachim Trier
Language: Swedish, Norwegian
Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu
Synopsis: Thelma is a shy new student at the University of Oslo in Norway who begins to experience seizures which turn out to be part of her menacing supernatural powers.
Why you should watch this film: If you like unusual artsy horror, this is the film for you. It reminds me of the film Hereditary by Ari Aster in the way that it is unconventionally creepy and does not sacrifice the element of beauty in a film. This film is also part love story as Thelma falls in love with another student named Anja. If the combination of all this in one film does not at least somewhat intrigue you, I do not know what will.
(The official movie poster for Thelma.)