This year promises to be a thrilling one in the world of foreign films, if only we could watch them
Published: February 3, 2011
Last weekend, a Rwandan film, Kinyarwanda, won the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, a prize previously awarded to crossover hits Once, Whale Rider and An Education. That could mean the chance of it landing in Orlando theaters sometime between now and when it hits DVD have improved dramatically. It could mean that it will go all the way – the aforementioned films all went on to garner Oscar nominations.
Or it could go the way of Seducing Doctor Lewis and Naming Number Two, winners of the same prize in 2004 and 2006, respectively, and not much else.
If “nobody knows anything” when it comes to picking a good film from a bad film before it opens, it’s doubly so when it comes to foreign films. Culture clash is as big an obstacle as the language barrier, and films with difficult material from ravaged countries – Kinyarwanda is set during the 1994 genocide of minority Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers by the majority Hutus (a far cry from a coming-of-age tale set in 1960s London) – pose even larger financial risks to theater owners than typical crowd-pleasing Sundance fare.
So it is with a grain of salt that we present this handful of exciting-sounding films hoping to find an audience this year. With independent distribution being reshaped with every streaming innovation, cinephiles may not even have that long to wait. Cross your fingers … or just save them to your Netflix queue.
Applause : (Martin Zandvliet – Denmark) Since appearing in Tomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration more than 13 years ago, Paprika Steen has become the international face of Danish cinema, be it Dogme 95 or otherwise. She stars here as Thea, a popular but volatile stage actress whose struggles with alcohol have estranged her from her ex-husband and two young children. Her attempt to put her crumbling life back together runs within the film against carefully selected scenes shot during Steen’s acclaimed run in the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that won her praise in her home country.
Certified Copy : (Abbas Kiarostami – Iran/France) Juliette Binoche won best actress at Cannes last year for her portrayal of a woman frustrated by life – especially her selfish, ingrate child. In her first collaboration with the Iranian master, she goes on a day trip to see art and local culture in Tuscany with a writer whose new book, Copie Conforme, an exploration on the artful validity of copies, she seems to despise. More than that, she seems to despise the writer himself. The European art-film style and comfortable budget is something of a change for Kiarostami, but fans will recognize his hand in the visual style, even if it is a lush countryside he’s framing instead of dusty Tehran.
The Grandmasters : (Wong Kar-wai – Hong Kong) Little is known about Wong Kar-wai’s biopic of the legendary kung-fu master, Ip Man (Tony Leung), the man who trained Bruce Lee. Yes, Donnie Yen has already played Ip Man in two films by Wilson Yip (the second of which, Ip Man 2, is playing now in very limited release), but this is Wong Kar-wai we’re talking about. Truthfully, little is known about the film because Wong himself won’t know what it is until his finished edit. This is Wong’s seventh collaboration with Little Tony, and the first since 2046, a loose sequel to In the Mood for Love.
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