I promised this post last year and I’m finally getting around to it. I’m really excited to share my thoughts on these three films. For the record, these are foreign language films for me (me being an English-speaking resident of the United States). I really enjoyed watching all of them and I would wholeheartedly recommend all three. Enjoy! =)
Wadjda should be given a standing ovation just purely on the fact that it was so difficult to film. It is set in Saudi Arabia, a country that remains to this day, one of the most regressive societies on women’s rights in the world. And because of this, director Haifaal Mansou had to film from the back of a van because she was not allowed to be seen in the company of the male crew. She often had to communicate via walkie talkie and see the actors’ performances on a monitor. It’s only really an inkling of how difficult it is to be a woman in Saudi Arabia as is shown in the film. The film is supremely feminist but not because it shouts feminist messages from the rooftops. Instead its
simple storyline about a girl who just wants to own and ride a green bike to race her friend but isn’t allowed to, speaks volumes by itself. The actress playing Wadjda was a first time actress and she just plays it perfectly. She is endearing, sassy, playful and ultimately good-hearted. You just want her to have this bike. It effortlessly reveals the struggles of women not in any dramatic fashion but just as something women have to endure every day. Wadjda’s mother struggles with a disrespectful driver during her commute and constantly tries to please her husband so he won’t leave her for his second wife to bear him a son. I loved the relationship portrayed between Wadjda and her mother; it is flawed but always filled with the best intentions. The film is gently directed, not pointing fingers at anyone; there is no abusive father, no evil men as seems to be the case with a lot of these movies about the middle east but still a society that seems to value its women much, much less than its men. But the small acts of rebellion inspire not just tolerance, but change and it was so inspiring.
Train to Busan (2016)
Train to Busan is a Korean zombie movie and although it doesn’t really have anything to add to the saturated zombie genre, it is really fun and entertaining and sometimes funny. Seok-Woo (played by Gong Yoo from Goblin no less) is a workaholic who is bringing his daughter, Su-an, to Busan via train to see her mother. On the way there, they’re joined by a cast of other characters as they try and escape the sudden zombie infestation in the
train. The exciting thing about the zombies themselves is that they immediately turn into zombies after they are bitten. There’s no sad goodbyes or dramatic exits, nope. They just turn into people-eating zombies that try to tear you apart right away which does turn the suspense factor way up. The performances were wonderful although the actors probably lost weight just from the all the running they had to do. It literally felt like they were trying to run away from zombies every 5 minutes which really hurts the character development especially the females who are essentially just there for the male characters to have something to protect. However, what keeps this movie from being a mediocre zombie movie is again, the performances but also the brilliant use of lighting using the train windows, and solid editing. There’s always something happening so if you’re in the movie for a zombie movie that’s not too heavy, I think this one is a good choice.
Mustang is a movie that’s all the more impactful because it is so much more quiet. It subtly comments on the ways in which people try to control female sexuality and how it affects girls. Although it is set in a remote conservative society in Turkey, its theme resonates with all women around the globe. It follows 5 orphan sisters who after being seen playing an “indecent” game with boys (you know the game where girls sit on boys’ shoulders in the pool and the other girl tries to knock the other girl into the water), their grandmother and uncle forbid them from leaving the house and start to marry them off one by one. This movie has an amazing ensemble cast especially the female leads who weren’t really aspiring actresses. They gave the performances such a realistic and natural edge. You feel as if they were actually sisters. I often felt as though I was watching a documentary instead of a fictional movie. It is bleak but there’s always a sense of hope infused throughout as these girls discover their sexuality and are ok with their growing curiosities about sex. The lighting is also really impressive. It uses mostly natural lighting (or what seems like natural lighting) and uses it again, to set that ordinary and realistic tone. The ending was really intense and hit just the right notes for me even though it was a little on the wish-fulfillment. Sometimes you just need something hopeful like that.
*All gifs and posters are not mine. Let me know if you have recommendations for foreign language films, if you’ve seen any of these or if you want to! 🙂