A Potpourri of International Films Worth Watching

MADEINUSA (Peru, 2006)

Is a Spanish and Peruvian production directed by Claudia Llosa. The film takes place in an imaginary village in the middle of the Peruvian mountains called Manayaycuna, a word which means “the town where no one can enter” in Quechua. A young guy from Lima arrives unwillingly to the town during Holy Week, amid a festivity where a strange tradition is followed during that precise weekend. The locals believe that since God is dead and therefore cannot see, nothing is considered a sin. Madeinusa (beautiful Magaly Solier) is the main character, a local Quechua girl who is forced to deal with her father’s incestuous desires with her sister and herself- wishes to be taken to Lima, where her mother lives. A series of events develop where it is possible to observe one of the main themes: traditional village life and its many contradictions regarding religion, sex, and encountering the Other. Cinematography rocks and so does the script!


Mehdi Charef is the director of this Algerian film that portrays the story of Rallia, a beautiful girl, originally from a village in the Maghreb, but raised by an adoptive family in Geneva, Switzerland- who has decided to search for her mother who abandoned her when she was a baby. Holding on to this hope she returns to her traditional northern African village to find her grandfather and her lunatic aunt, although not her mother, who is supposedly working as a cleaner in a luxury hotel in another town. Rallia immerses herself in village life and eventually decides to venture to the city to find her mother.
The movie holds a central theme that goes beyond a daughter’s search for her mother. It strongly criticizes gender roles in northern African Islamic villages and portrays a bipartisan view of western versus eastern gender and cultural values and appreciations. Plus, in the end you will be surprised... Check it out!

The Sea Urchin (France, 2009)

In this film directed by Mona Achache, the general themes portrayed are the pathological compulsion for accumulating wealth, objects, and money versus the loneliness and extreme depression experimented by many people living in a large city as is Paris. The Sea Urchin is a great story involving Paloma, a pseudo-genius girl who lives with her parents and sister in a luxurious Parisian building and is incredibly depressed despite her young age. She insists she will commit suicide before her 11th birthday and therefore decides to document all the movements and conversations of the people around her in an effort to prove that everybody is incredibly depressed, neurotic, and unsatisfied in their lives. The film also portrays another relationship that develops between the building’s concierge, another neurotic and extremely lonely woman and a very wealthy Japanese man who ends up falling for her and teaching her to love again. Great storyline! Totally worth watching!

Movie Update: POLAND

In my last entry I revealed a valuable discovery that´s been successfully turning into a new hobby: Video Place and its wide array of international movies. I also promised to include a selection of the films I consider some of the best I’ve watched so far. Here are some of the titles categorized by their country of origin.

The first position goes to Poland, primarily because of the fact that I will shortly be living in this country and have become increasingly obsessed with anything born and bred there.

The trilogy Three Colors or Trois Coleurs occupies first place among my favorites. Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski geniously co-wrote, produced, and directed this series while living in France during the 90’s.

The three very interesting movies: Red, White and Blue represent the colors of the French flag, as well as the revolutionary ideals of this country.

1. In the first film Red (Rouge), the main theme seems to be a strange relationship or bond that forms between a model and student played by actress Irène Jacob and a retired judge played by Jean-Louis Trintignant who spends his days eavesdropping people’s telephone conversations in an effort to establish justice. The film is my favorite among the three, and develops an important lesson between good and evil and a criticism towards law professionals and the judicial system. The color red is present throughout the plot, as well as other symbolism such as telephone conversations, broken glass, and the characters’ link to their past (a common theme in the other two films also).

2. White (Blanc) my second favorite movie in this trilogy, where this color is present throughout the whole plot (mainly through snowy scenes), begins in Paris and continues in Warsaw. Here, Karol Karol plays the main character: a shy man who is left by his wife and desperately tries to get back together with her after a series of despiteful events. He then attempts to restore his life and obtain revenge from her. The main theme here traces itself back to another of the French revolutionary ideals: equality. White’s tone is satiric combined with black humor.

3. My third favorite film of this trilogy is Blue (Bleu), and actually the first of the three. Juliette Binoche plays the main character, a woman whose husband and children have been killed in a car accident and now has to face being alone. She decides to cut all bonds from society and live secluded from anything that ties her to other human beings. The only belonging she keeps is a blue lamp: the color present throughout the film. The main theme here is liberty (emotional rather than political). In Blue’s last scene, the main characters of all three films come together.

4. Katyń (2007)
Is a film directed by Academy Honorary Award winning director, Andrzej Wajda and takes place in 1940 Poland during the massacre of Katyn, where more than 20,000 POW (prisoners of war) officers were executed by the Soviet authorities. The truth about this crime was covered and denied by the Soviets, who blamed the Germans, until 1989 when the Soviet rule collapsed. The film is based on the book Post Mortem: The Story of Katyn by Andrzej Mularczyk, a true story. The main character in Katyń is a captain played by Artur Zmijewski, who has been captured by the Soviet army and keeps a diary of all of his experiences and the horrid tortures he witnesses. Throughout the plot it is possible to see the censorship that took place during this time, first with the closing of a university and deporting its professors to concentration camps, and finally with a detailed description of the massive execution that took place at Katyń. The movie is definetely worth watching, especially because it is based on the director’s father’s memoir and displays a historic account of events, although extremely explicit and harsh at times.

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