Foreign Films Buying Guide

The term 'Foreign Film' is predominantly used in English speaking countries to describe any non-English language film. It would, for example, be very uncommon for a film made in the US, Australia or Canada to be referred to as a 'foreign film' in the UK.  Seasoned film buffs will commonly split the term 'foreign film' into four major categories: European Cinema ,Asian Cinema ,World Cinema  and Bollywood .  'European Cinema' refers to films produced in continental Europe and filmed in European languages such as Polish, German and French. 'Asian Cinema' refers to films being produced in Asia, most commonly Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.  World Cinema is often used to categorize films that don't fall into any of these major centres of production. This is arguably because the rate of film production in the regions these titles has not hit a level where a body of work substantial enough exists to be classified as an independent entity. Bollywood is the popular term used to describe Hindi language films made in Mumbai. So well established is the Mumbai film industry, it would be unlikely that Bollywood films would be classified as 'foreign films' or 'world cinema'. Remember, these terms are loose and flexible and really created for ease of classification by the English-speaking west. Whilst a French language film could easily be categorized as a 'foreign film', film enthusiasts would more than likely classify a French-language film as 'French Cinema', due to the large and rich heritage of the French film industry.

Common Mistakes

As the Wikipedia page on World Cinema points out, foreign films are often grouped together with art-house or independent film. This is a misconception. Foreign films can and are often very commercial and can have large production and marketing budgets. It can be speculated that the intellectual or aesthetic sensibilities attributed to foreign films in the English-speaking market is in part due to lower marketing exposure, cultural differences and subtitles. In recent years, major foreign films have gained mainstream popularity going some way to counter this stereotype. Films such as Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth  and Amelie  did good business at the box office in English speaking countries.

European Cinema

Europe has a great number of countries producing exciting and original work.

  • French Cinema has established pedigree and was famous for the New Wave - a term used to describe a group of French filmmakers in the 1950s and 1960s that rejected traditional conventions of linear plot narratives, improvised shots and dialogue and existential themes.
  • Pioneering Spanish directors such as Pedro Almodovar  follow in the tradition of celebrated directors like Luis Buñuel .
  • Italy has produced fine films with the likes of Federico Fellini  and Roberto Rossellini  making films considered masterpieces.

Celebrated European Directors

Celebrated European Directors

Jean-Luc Godard  was as leader of the 'new wave' in France. Filmography includes: Week End  and Breathless .

Pedro Almodovar  is one of Spain's leading directors. Works include Bad Education  and All About My Mother .

Ingmar Bergman  is arguably Sweden's greatest ever director and he had a profound effect on aspiring directors worldwide. Filmography includes Fanny and Alexander  and Scenes from a Marriage .

Federico Fellini  was one of the most revered directors of the 20th century. His interests in psychology, art and literature influenced his work. Famous films include   and La Dolce Vita .

Andrei Tarkovsky  was a leading Russian director whose work includes Solaris  and Andrei Rublev .

Asian Cinema

With a mix of intellectual heavyweight directors and the fast-paced, hard-boiled action films of Hong Kong, Asian cinema is renowned for a vast body of work with the mass produced popular martial arts film  standing alongside directors like Akira Kurosawa  and Yasujirõ Ozu . Modern films that have reached a cult audience in English speaking countries include the work of John Woo  - known for his hard-hitting action films and the Korean Park Chun-Wook , director of the Vengeance Trilogy , a series of particularly violent, but brilliant films based on revenge.

Notable Asian Films

Park Chun-Wook's Old Boy 

John Woo's Hard Boiled 

Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai 

Yasurijõ Ozu's Late Spring 

Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer 

World Cinema

For a number of years there has been exciting and original work coming out of South America and Africa. Often lumped together under 'World Cinema', emerging directors from these continents are definitely worth investigating further. Works from director's like Carlos Reygadas, Carlos Sorin and Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund has begun to garner more international recognition.

Notable South American Films

Carlos Sorin's Bombón El Perro 

Carlos Reygadas' Battle In Heaven 

Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund's City Of God 

Foreign Film Labels and Distributors

These labels specialize in distributing World Cinema and are a great place to get information about the latest releases and history of foreign film.

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