Saturday, July 12, 2014

25 Great Foreign Films that Did Not Get Distribution in US Theaters

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo

Hollywood movies are shown all over the world, but the world is not showing its movies in Hollywood. American audiences are missing a lot of what is going on out there, in the real world.

Lately, foreign movies in the US go straight to video, DVD, Blu-ray, V.O.D. (Video on Demand), Youtube, Netflix, and other Online downloads, or disappear after having great success in their local market. L.A., N.Y., and San Francisco are the big cities to show films made overseas. 

There is the huge hunger for world cinema in other markets such as Paris, London, Athens, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Mexico City. 
Publicity for Mexican film "The Amazing Catfish/Los insólitos peces gato." Paris, 2014. 
© Photo courtesy of Georges Aintablian

The reasons why those movies are not getting US distribution are different then than now, the result is the same, audiences do not get a chance to enjoy these amazing movies on the big screen. Do we know why?

A good guess will be the niche market for foreign films making it difficult for distributors to ever recoup any significant amount of money for what is invested in marketing.

Where can we find these movies? 

The way to know is by attending the different film festivals in town: AFI Fest, Arab, Argentinean, Brazilian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indian, Israel, Italian, Japanese, LA Film Fest, Mexican, Outfest, Polish, South East European, Scandinavian, Spanish, Turkish, so on… 

People that go to the film festivals have a lifetime opportunity to see the films on the big screen, meet the filmmakers and the movie stars.

Festival in LA selected twenty-five great foreign films in the past three years that did not get distribution in US theaters and are worth seeing on the big screen. 
U.S.C. Film School.
1.     Witching 
and
 Bitching 
(Spain), 
2014.

“Las Brujas De Zugarramurdi” is a mixture of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “Santa Sangre.” The horror is combining with the humor, crazy violence, mixed with diabolic, and artistic elements that make us fall in love with this flick. This surrealistic, irreverent, funny, crazy, and horror movie is masterfully done by Spanish director Alex De La Iglesia. It’s an instant cult classic. The film has a small distribution deal on V.O.D., and later to DVD. We think that it´s an enormous boo-boo not to show this incredible film in American theaters.
© Polish Film Festival, 2013.
2.   Walesa: Man of Hope 
(Poland), 
2013.
Four times Academy Award nominated Polish director Andrzej Wajda has an enormous cinematographic vision for this monumental biopic about one of the greatest leaders of our time, Lech Walesa (Robert Wieckiewicz). The film starts with the famous interview by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci (Maria Rosaria Omaggio). She asked important questions related to Walesa's turbulent life, how he organized unions, won the Nobel Prize and changed the destiny of his nation and the World. An inspiring movie that anyone should see. 


3.     Viva la Libertà 
(Italy), 
2013.
The reflections on politics, intrigue, infidelity, and depression are centered on the secretary of the opposing party who fumbles between his private and public life in Italy. The performance by the entire cast is remarkable, especially the one played by Tony Servillo (“The Great Beauty,” “Il Divo,” Gomorrah”). This great production deserves a shot in theaters all over the world.

4. Stray Dogs 
(Taiwan), 
2013
The narrative presents an alcoholic father and his two children struggling to survive in Taipei. The circumstances are devastating. Their path crosses with a lonely grocery clerk who helps them to make their life easier. Against adversity, the children are still capable of preserving their innocence and imagination. It's an incredible and powerful journey full of symbolism and hope for the poor people who comfort and support each other. Well directed by Tsai Ming-Liang. The long takes make the movie flow slow, but the cinematography and the story are enjoyable, touching, and rewarding.

© Hola Mexico Film Festival, 2014.
5. Last Call 
(Mexico), 
2013.
Director Francisco Franco delivers a complex film with an amazing cast ensemble. They, all together, have a difficult task, to bring to life the play of Albert Camus' "Caligula" for a prestigious international theater festival. Everything is chaos when the lead actor quits. The film brakes away from traditional cliches and makes us laugh and care for every character. It reminds us of “Meeting Venus” with Glenn Close, only that “Tercera llamada” has much more drama. I’ve seen this movie twice and every time I like it even more.  
© LA Film Fest, 2013.

6.     Mother, I Love You
 (Latvia), 
2013
Janis Nordsj directs a wonderful story of Raymond, a 12-year-old boy, and his mother, a middle-class woman who has not much time to take care of the boy. Raimonds falls into a world of petty crime with problems falling over him like a snowball. His mother has to put an end to this madness after the court date. This remarkable movie reminds us that the bond of mother and son is always cemented in stone. The Swiss film “Sister” and Belgian “The Kid with a Bike” fall into the same category.  
© LA Indian Film Festival, 2014.

7.     Bombay Talkies 
(India), 
2014.
Four great short stories placed together to celebrate India’s hundred years of movie making. “The Talkies” are brilliant, honest, and eye-opening with unique scenarios. The grand finale is a big Bollywood production with the greatest Bollywood stars. 

© Polish Film Festival, 2013.
8.     Siberian Exile 
(Poland), 
2013.
An epic comparable with films about the Exodus and the Holocaust based on real facts about how Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews were kicked out of their lands and deported to Russia to work hard on the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad. The story is narrated from the point of view of a young boy, who is forced to go to live almost as a slave with his family and neighbors. Struggling for survival, they must fight against their captors, merciless nature, ringing frost, and deadly famine. Political circumstances and the turn of the events at the end of the WWII continues the story of the young boy who becomes a grown up man and comes back to rebuild his life and his country.

© South East European Film Festival, 2014.
9.     Sarajevo 
(Austria), 
2014.
A magnificent political thriller with some romance and drama. The film depicts the turn of events that detonated World War I, better known as the Great War. The timing couldn’t be any better for this Austrian production when Europe commemorates the centennial of military conflict that involved many nations, left thousands of casualties, and changed Europe’s map forever. “Sarajevo” focuses on Dr. Leo Pfeffer (Florian Teichtmeister), a magistrate who investigates the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  The film is impeccable, accurate, articulate, linear, well directed by Andreas Prochaska (“The Dark Valley”). It was intended to hit the European T.V. market, but a theatrical release in America will be worth its weight in gold.

© www.moviemonsters.gr
10.  Little England 
(Greece), 
2013.
A beautiful Greek period drama set in the beginning of WWII on the island of Andros and runs to the 1950’s. The story is about two sisters, Orsa and Moscha, falling for the same man, Spyros, an aspiring navy captain. A sense of family and community engrosses this well-made film. It has an elegant cinematography scope, well-balanced editing, and a marvelous script adapted from a novel with the same name “Mikra Anglia,” written by Ioanna Karystiani, and directed by renowned Greek filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris. The film won this year six Hellenic Film Academy Awards (Greek Oscars), including best picture.  

© Scandinavian Film Festival, 2011.

11.  Superclásico 
(Denmark), 
2010.
A comedy/drama about Danish couple (Anders W. Berthelsen and Paprika Steen) divorcing in the middle of a super clásico soccer game in Argentina (Boca vs. River). He is a wine dealer and she is the agent of a very well known soccer player. With the excuse of signing the divorce papers, Christian and their son Oscar will follow her from Copenhagen to Buenos Aires. The flavor of the streets and the noise of the soccer fans of the South American country juxtaposes with the fighting of husband and wife making this movie delightful, funny and sexy. It is a sweet film about couples, tango, food, soccer, culture, coming of age, passion and above all…love.
 
12.  Class Enemy 
(Slovenia), 
2013.
A very realistic approach of what could happen if… - Tensions hit the roof after the arrival of a new teacher for the German class, one of the students commits suicide, shortly after talking with him. The class revolts not only against the teacher, the school, but against the entire school system in their country. The silent approach and great camera angles contribute to the mounting tensions. At moments slow, but the beautiful cinematography makes up for it.
© ECCE FILMS
13.  The Age of Panic 
(France), 
2013
A contemporary and marvelous film that mixes documentary techniques with a modern narrative in a social context. On the night of the French presidential election, a TV journalist leaves her two children with a male babysitter. The father has a restriction court order. He cannot see his children when the mother is absent. He insists, pushing everything to chaos when the babysitter decides to take the children out in the tumultuous streets to see their mom. People get intense about the debate of who should win the election. Everything escalates in a very intense fight between wife and husband, the law vs. people’s impulses. A unique and innovative way to tell a story. The audience feels agony and experiences the claustrophobic effect the movie has.

© Hola Mexico Film Festival, 2014.
14. I Don’t Know Whether to Slit my Wrists 
or Leave Them Long 
(Mexico), 
2013.
In a building unit in Mexico City, two neighbor couples, one fixed marriage Catholic and the other Jewish that cannot have babies. They will talk about their differences when a new neighbor arrives and invites them for dinner. He’s a handsome soccer player who is recovering from an injury. Even they are together, all of them are immersed into a terrible loneliness. Two gunshots are heard, the mystery starts with the suspicion of a crime scene. Comedy and drama with musical tones make a good Mexican melodrama. Similar in tone to one of an earlier box office hit: “Sex, Shame and Tears/Sexo, pudor y lágrimas.”It was a big hit in Mexico, hoping to be seen in the US theaters, it may have the same luck of many movies of this country that go straight to DVD. Now, try to read out loud the title of the movie in Spanish: “No se si cortarme las venas o dejármelas largas.” 

15.   Cold Eyes 
(Korea), 
2013.
The high-tech Korean “Training Day” gets brutal when the new recruits have to face superior crime forces. A remake of “Eye in the Sky” is bringing more fans of Korean crime-thriller at this time. The film balances the special effects with storytelling, character depiction and performances with all the action sequences elements of a good combo. This “cops and thieves” kind of movie always finds fans' love all over the world.  
© Arab  Film Festival, 2012.
16.  Death for Sale 
(Morocco), 
2011.
Everything’s paid in blood for three friends who want to rob a Spanish jewelry in Morocco. They want to break the circle of poverty in which they are immersed. In their conversations, one of them will say: “If you want to remain dumb clouds, I won’t stop you. To each of us, our own path.” Somehow it's different from another great Moroccan film, “Horses of God,” where kids were pushed by religion into terrorism. “Death for Sale” is a magnificent thriller that also deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Photo Jose Alberto Hermosillo © www.FestivalinLA.com
17.  My Way/Cloclo 
(France), 
2012.
This is a biopic-musical of a French pop superstar from the 70’s Claude François, better known as “Cloclo,” it's well directed by Florent-Emilio Siri (“Intimate Enemies,” “Hostage”), and it has the marvelous performance by Jérémie Renier (“L'Enfant,” and “Brotherhood of the Wolf”) in the depiction of Cloclo. The prolific composer with a controversial life, mostly with his father, who did not speak to him during his entire life for choosing music to make a living. That terrible feeling of being neglected inspired him to compose one of the most beloved songs ever written, “My Way.” Frank Sinatra made it famous, Paul Anka, Julio Iglesias, and much more had that song in their repertory. In México, José José translated in Spanish renamed “A mi Manera,” selling thousands of records. I could never forget how magnificent "My Way" is.

U.S.C. Film School, 2013.
18.  Chinese Take-Away 
(Argentina), 
2011.
“Un cuento chino” is the original title for this enjoyable heartfelt Argentinean dark comedy that no one should miss. Roberto (Ricardo Darin “The Secret in Their Eyes”) is an extremely obsessive for order, the kind of middle age guy who likes to collect all quirky articles from newspapers. In the middle of nowhere a Chinese man is thrown out of a moving car. Roberto helps him, but the language barrier comes to play a big role, sometimes funny, sometimes nostalgic or even tragic. Roberto wants Jun out of his life, but humanity is telling him to help the stranger. This Chinese brother hides the tragedy of his past, and the reason he traveled to a foreign land, to forget the lost of the love of his life in strange circumstances. The movie is sweet, enjoyable and good for everyone.
© www.moviemonsters.gr
19.  J.A.C.E. 
(Greece), 
2011.
Everybody in Europe raved about J.A.C.E. and the new generation of Greek filmmakers. Critics talk about the excellent storytelling, acting, and the great cinematography this movie has. The story is about an Albanese/Greek kid, who witness how his foster family is massacred. Violence, chaos, and abandonment found in the streets are left for Jace who will have an Odyssey of his own, always moving away from the harsh reality and looking for a family to live with. A must see on the big screen.
© German Currents, 2013.
20.  Layla Fourie 
(Germany), 
2013.
Winner of the Jury Special Mention at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, this emotional political drama/thriller with the paranoia, fear, and mistrust of a place with racial conflicts, South Africa. Is about a single mother trying to keep the custody of her son while working as a polygraph operator, she manages to secure a job with a company specializing in lie detectors and security. On the road, she is involved in an accident that changes her life.  Director Pia Marais delivers an impeccable work, similar to Spanish classic “Death of a Cyclist” and Argentinean co-production “The Headless Woman.” 

Courtesy of COL-COA © reserved rights
21.  Jappeloup 
(France), 
2013.
This emotional drama/biopic about a horse that went to compete in the Olympic Games of Los Angeles in 1984 and Montreal in 1988 winning the glory for the French team, Pierre Durand and his horse Jappeloup de Luze did the impossible. A highly entertaining film recommended for the entire family. It’s inspiring and competitive. Worth to be shown in American theaters. No one can understand the reasons of why this beautiful film was not picked by a US distribution company.

© Guadalajara International Film Festival LA, 2012 (FICG LA).
22.  Miradas Múltiples 
(La máquina loca), 
(Mexico), 
2012
This documentary directed by Emilio Maillé is about the work of Mexican legendary cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. It displays the iconic images from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema and what those moving pictures mean now to some of today’s world's greatest cinematographers such as Hideo Yamamoto, Vittorio Storaro, Luciano Tovoli, Javier Aguirresarobe, Christopher Doyle, Haskell Wexler, Raoul Coutard, Gabriel Beristain, Janusz Kaminski and much more.  To listen to each of them a comment, full of passion and admiration for the talented man behind the camera. A master class. As didactic as “Visions of Light.” This historic document not only should have played in the US already, it should be mandatory in every film school.  

Courtesy of SEEfest 2014 © reserved rights
23.  Karnaval 
(Turkey), 
2014.
Director Can Kılcıoğlu delivers a wonderful romance/comedy. An independent production made with the help of family, friends, and neighbors. The story follows the path of “Sideways” in humor and adventures. This familiar drama is about an ordinary guy, in a small town, living inside his car, in a quest for a good job and meeting the right girl. After a while, he finds himself working door-to-door marketing Karnaval brand carpet cleaners. The girl is a wedding cake maker working for her father. Circumstances in life will bring them together. This charming and refreshing little Turkish film will please anyone in the US.

© www.moviemonsters.gr

24.  The Priest's Children 
(Croatia), 
2013.
This is a simple story of a priest who pinches all the condoms to promote population increase on the island. After that, the moral issue is entered into the game and the complications begin. It is funny and beautiful to watch, directed by one of the most renowned filmmakers in the country, Vinko Bresan. It has been the most successful film in Croatia. 30,000 people saw it on the first weekend. It has been the audience favorite in festivals around the world and has been distributed in many markets around the world.

© Kazakhstan Montage of Cinema, 2012.
25.   Tale of the Pink Bunny 
(Kazakhstan), 
2010.
We know very little about Kazakhstan cinema and how much it has grown in recent years. This gangsters’ dark humor, drama, has never been released in the US. “Bunny” is the story of young people in suburbia trying to survive. It shows the upper class and the poor/working class without preferential treatment. It has great visuals and a frenetic ending. “Pink Bunny” already has a sequel, "Return of The Tale of a Pink Bunny." The “Amores Perros” of Kazakhstan rocks with great music and talented filmmakers.

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© FestivalinLA, 2014

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