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.

I_Am_Not_a_Witch

(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_Way_He_Looks_Official_Brazilian_Poster

(The official poster for The Way He Looks, written in Portuguese.)

My Life as a Courgette (2016) 

Director: Claude Barras

Language: Swiss-French

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. 

My_Life_as_a_Zucchini

(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. 

Monsieur_lazhar

(The official movie poster for Monsieur Lazhar.)

Thelma (2017) 

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. 

Thelma_(2017_film)

(The official movie poster for Thelma.)

By Catherine Duffy

Two-thousand-nine-hundred-fifty-eight kilometers, the distance between Regina, Saskatchewan and Moncton, New Brunswick. That’s how many kilometers stretch between my mom and I during this time of crisis. I didn’t think the distance would bother me. I’ve lived on my own for almost four years now since I started college, only staying at home for a few weeks during the summer and at Christmas. However, I’ve found myself envying those going through the pandemic with their families…as crazy as it might be making them!

I’ve always kept in touch with my mom with daily texts and FaceTime calls a few times a week, but there’s something about a global pandemic that makes me wish she was here with me. It would be comforting. With such a threatening disease to the older population, I wonder if I am missing out on last moments with her. She is in her 60s, and to someone like her, the risks this disease imposes are just that much higher.

I also miss my furry friend and can’t relate to those improving their bonds with their pets with this extra time at home. The life of a cat is already painfully short and I can’t help but feel that I am missing out on precious time.

My mom and I, Mother’s Day 2018.

I look back regretfully on the month of March wondering if I had missed my chance to make it home to my mom and my cat. I had a flight booked for the end of April but as COVID-19 became rapidly worse, I soon got an email that my flight had been cancelled. The day we found out classes would be held online for the rest of the semester, one of my friends reminded me that this was a chance to reunite with my mom. I guiltily admit that I hadn’t even thought of that opportunity. Somewhere deep down I still thought all this would soon be over and I worried I’d be too far away from my university when things restarted. I also knew that my family home was filled with distractions and wondered how much work I’d be able to complete in the environment.

I would have only had a few days to pack up everything I had gathered during these last four years of school if I had chosen to go back to New Brunswick. The thought of a panic-filled packing session caused stress to race through my veins and in the moment, I just wanted to stay put. So much was still undetermined and I relied on the news to give me the updates I needed.

Flights being cancelled wouldn’t necessarily be the reason I’d have to stay in Saskatchewan. I soon decided that I would drive, aiming for the end of March when we’d get confirmation that our final exams would be online. Strangely enough, not flying home would almost be a good thing. I’d get to drive across the country, something that had always been on my bucket list, and I’d be able to pack more of my belongings than the airport’s strict suitcase policies would allow.

Again, things changed quickly on a day-to-day basis. By time I had made my mind up to drive, it was no longer an option. Both the United States border as well as those in the province of Quebec had been closed. There was no other way to New Brunswick. Though “essential trips” would be allowed, I had nothing to prove that I had New Brunswick residency, having changed my license when I moved away from my parents for school. 

The border closures made it official: I was stuck in Saskatchewan. Luckily, my landlord was understanding and reassured me that I could stay as long as I needed. Again, I wasn’t totally disappointed. This was my home after all, and finally, it seemed like my questions had been answered: I knew where I’d be staying for a least a couple months. It’s hard to ever really know your future plans with how fast the situation is changing, but I had finally formed a temporary plan. I looked forward to the football games and concerts I’d be able to attend with my friends, finally spending summer in Saskatchewan for the first time in four years. Naïve little me did not realize that such large gatherings didn’t stand a chance with the pandemic.

I know that many people have been separated from their loved ones in this time due to the new social distancing regulations. However, I believe there would be something comforting in knowing that your parents are still in the same city as you. Perhaps you’d head to their house for a conversation through the window like those feel-good Internet videos show.

Moms are so important. They’re the ones who make us realize that everything will be okay when we’re still young and frightened about the unknown world around us. From bellyaches, to thunderstorms to losing a balloon, Mom is always there to hold us and to reassure us that everything will be alright. So, as the world has stopped and has been filled with fear and uncertainty, yes, my twenty-two year-old-self needs her mom.

My mom and I enjoying a visit together.

Next time I’m with my mom, I won’t take my time with her for granted. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and I’ve seen a lot of truth to that since being separated from her at the beginning of my post-secondary career. Though you may have plans to see someone, you never know how they might fall through. When survival is threatened, whether on a big-scale for the vulnerable population or a lower-scale for those in good health, it’s comforting to be able to run to your mom for a hug. I can’t wait to see her again.