7 Tips For Foreign Film Beginners

I LOVE the simplicity and utility of making “lists.” I make a list for just about everything: what I’m about to do, where I’m supposed to go, and of course, what I’m going to watch.

This  starter list, describe which foreign film characteristics may be easier to digest, for people who don’t normally watch foreign films–the do’s and don’ts if you will.

Find films that…..

Cover of "Absurdistan"

1) don’t have too many dialogue; in fact my favorite foreign films are the ones that are visually striking, and can evoke emotions with very little words spoken like Fiona Gordon & Dominique Abel’s “L’Iceberg” (French) or Veit helmer’s “Absurdistan” (Turkish.)

The Story of the Weeping Camel

2) are family friendly; movies like “Happy Times” and “The Story of The Weeping Camel” have the je ne sais quoi that I love about foreign films, but is easily relatable.


3) are creative BUT not confusing; I love surrealist filmmakers like Jan Svankmajer  who might harmoniously mix character inner monologue with actions, but can often be confusing and can therefore be misunderstood.-Start with “Amelie” or “Billie Elliot” at first, as it is better to be able to appreciate complex films like “I Am A Cyborg, But It’s Okay” or “Wool 100%” when you can accept it as is.

Promotional poster for the US release of the C...

4) aren’t too long; magnificent films like Zhang Yang‘s “Sunflower”  and “Aftershock” by Feng Xiaongang are phenomenal films that can only do justice to character development, if the film’s plot took it’s time to unfold. An antsy beginner may not have the patience to watch a heavily dramatic film that is more than an hour,  and in turn may despise instead of understanding them.

Gong Li at the Cannes film festival

5) look for familiar faces; many talented foreign actors such as Gong Li, Audrey Tautou and Michael Caine have become internationally known and have crossed over and captivated Americans with their exotic charms. A familiar face may make it easier to follow an otherwise different culture.

6) sound familiar; and I don’t mean similar plots to typical Hollywood box-office hits. I mean, pick a language that is already familiar for you. Language such as Spanish or Italian may be easier to follow–just by tone and common day exposure alone! I’ve gotten used to subtitles, so much so that I turn captions on even when when watching regular American television (smh.) Which leads me to #7…

Rosario Tijeras

7) do not use subtitles as an excuse not to listen; at first, subtitles are crutches that aid us into the world of foreign languages. However, as you start absorbing the movie, you should slowly ween-off of  using subtitles alone, to understand the story. Sometimes, I am so involved in the narrative of story–like in “Rosario Tijeras”, that I forget it’s a foreign language ’cause it’s that engaging.


***But Of course, we all enjoy and appreciate films differently. I wish I knew which to watch first before I started; as I disrupted & shunned classic films like “Farewell My Concubine” because it didn’t interest me at first glance. Good luck at your ventures and always!


dreamHome (2010)

dreamHome (2010)FlickJist-follow your dreams, even if it means you have to kill a couple of people that get in the way

Title: dreamHome

Release Date:  May 13, 2010

Country: Hong Kong

Directed By:  Pang Ho-cheung 

Starring: Josie Ho, Eason Chan, & Norman Chu

Other films by director (s): Isabella (2006)

Noted as “one of the strongest horror films of the last several years” by Livia Bloom of Filmmaker MagazinedreamHome has got to be one of the goriest horror films I’ve seen since Dead Alive (1993)–except Dead Alive is a comedy-horror and dreamHome is just plain disturbing.

Unlike James Wan‘s  graphic Saw (2004) series, dreamHome doesn’t give you that dreadful feeling that a bunch of people are about to die. There’s no countdown before something bad happens, there’s no scary doll on a bike, riding ominously into the room delivering a scary message. Instead, what makes dreamHome effectively unsettling is the unexpectedly normal and dare I say it–likable, psychopathic killer masking as a young woman with a simple dream.

There is no warning that you should have looked away. And I found myself saying “whyyyyyy…oh stop… ohmagod!”…I mean…there’s just NO leaving to the imagination–you basically see 90% of what you don’t want to see happening to a human being.

Definitely NOT for the faint of heart.  That being said, is it wrong for me to say it was beautifully done? lol


6 Reasons To Watch Foreign Films

Wool 100% (2006)

As I posted in Why I Love Foreign Films: Magic Without Needing Graphics, I have particular reasons as to why I prefer foreign films over standard Hollywood box-office hits.

These are a few reasons why I think everyone should watch at least a few foreign films for leisure:

  1. Learn a different way of life- Although not all foreign films are realistic, most of the foundations are based on cultural or social norms and mores. Watching an obsessive amount of foreign films has made me adapt to loving the japanese dietary lifestyle. I’m not saying I’m an expert at using chop sticks ’cause I watch foreign films that involve chop sticks, but I am saying that since I’m exposed to it on a regular basis, that I am more likely to try new things. It could also be that Asian  films always have food or “eating”, as it is a vital part of our (speaking as an Asian-American) culture.
  2. See the world- sick of the everyday norm? watch a foreign film like The Story of The Weeping Camel  and you’ll see the vast contrast between your life, in comparison to a family of Mongolian nomads who round up camels and elks for a living. Watching foreign films ignited my desire to travel the world, but until the day I can afford it, I’ll live vicariously through movies.
  3. Learn a different language-  Okay. So you may not be able to speak French just by watching French films, but if you can’t tell one Asian culture from another and you think they all “look” or “sound” alike, by hearing different tones, dialects, and being acquainted with the expressions and mannerisms in multiple films, you may start to pick up slight differences.
  4. Tell better stories-  I have no doubt that watching an immense amount of films has made me a better story teller. Watching and learning how the deliverance of a story affects the outcome of how the story is perceived, makes a HUGE difference when trying to get a point across. I use my body, my face, my whole being when I tell a story, sometimes all I have to do is make a gesture and it’s hilarious. A foreign film like Rumba  that is 77 minutes long has very little dialogue, but I guarantee that if you watched it on mute you’d still laugh your butt off.
  5. Become cerebral- for those of you who don’t know what  the phrase “being cerebral” mean, watching a few foreign films may help make you feel smart. Not pretentious-smart where you pretend to understand what’s happening, but the exact opposite. Don’t ignore why you don’t understand a scene, think about why it’s happening. Why would we need to know that a lady that lives in a farm has a collection of baby shoes when she doesn’t have a child?! You tell me! Is it essential to character development or are they just being random?  Great movies (foreign or not) should always make you think! Challenge yourself and watch films that aren’t  dummy-proof. You’ll be surprised by how much the brain can understand, without taking the easy way out.
  6. Be aware of world issues- a lot of foreign films touch on subjects that people may not want to see, but have to know. Of course, they are no substitutes for the daily news, but the news cannot possibly inspire you to care as much as you would, if you were to watch a full story. Movies add a sense of wonder and value, to the human life that can be expressed through music and visual storytelling; something the news can’t touch  in under 1 minute. Humanizing people by adding character, background and personality makes the issue they are going through a lot more interesting.  I’m aware that as a woman living in America, I am blessed with the freedom of choice and the ability to pursue happiness (while others may not.) But I never felt so much gusto and determination to make my freedom count, till I saw The Stoning of Soraya.

Whether based on fact or totally imagined, movies (foreign or not) can be an entertaining way to see the world in a different light. Who knows…maybe your life’s purpose is only a movie away (just don’t forget to put the subtitles on ^-^)


The Ghost of Movies Past


A bit dramatic I know, but it’s true. Yesterday I started making a list of foreign films I’ve already seen–from the year 2000 to present.

I just got back from the local library and added another +20. So far, I’ve listed 83…but will be bouncing from one library to another, before checking at last in Netflix with the help of Danielle Parker (’cause I’m too poor for Netflix at the moment.)

I couldn’t help myself (of course) so I rented 3 more films to watch lol, and will probably rent more from the next library. I am a woman obsessed!!!

THIS is going to take a while ^.^

Posted from WordPress for Android

Rumba (2008)

Title: Rumba

Release Date:  September 10, 2008

Country: France

Directed By: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon & Bruno Romy

Starring:  Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon & Philippe Martz

Other films by director (s):  L’ iceberg (2005)  The Fairy (2011)

“Absurdly funny and stylish” claims the Montreal Mirror, this movie is one of those feel-good-I-wanna-watch-it-over-and-over-again types that make you wish the world was just as simple.

Charming, with very little dialogue, I adore this movie’s ability to tell a love story without being sappy, and with simple-yet-effective comedy reliefs, that only an odd-couple-that-seem-to-only-make-sense-together can deliver.

This ” Whimsical, wisp of a movie, likely to bring a smile to viewers’ faces” (National Post), is great for Girl’s Night In, or a lovely ice breaker for daters.

Definitely one of my favorites!