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It’s been a while, but grad school just does that to you.  We apologize for our much longer than usual hiatus of non-Motley Monday posts, but we sure keep this segment coming for you 🙂  And I apologize for my extremely not even close to hitting Monday, but here I am!

Let’s be real, I honestly would not know about any of the foreign films I watch if it weren’t for the availability on instant view of Netflix.  As I get ready to move to India for half a year, I admit this is one thing I will dearly miss.  Sure I can do Google searching, and come up with titles, but why do that when Netflix can give me that wonderful randomness in its “suggestions for Saba” page?  After all, Netflix sort of knows me based on what I have streamed (creepy all at the same time).  It also introduced me to Indian cinema beyond Bollywood (especially Kokana Sen Sharma, who can actually act compared to many of the Bollywood entertainer actresses).

Anyway, I list my 6 favorite foreign film explorations below (meh, 5 and 10 are cliche numbers).

6.) Mutluluk (Bliss) – Turkey

This movie is about a girl from a small village in Turkey, name Meryem who ends up raped, and is unfortunately ostracized from her village because of traditional beliefs around honor and pride.   Meryem’s cousin, Cemal, is ordered by the elders of the village to bring her to Istanbul and force her to commit suicide.  However, he cannot bring himself to do it.  He and Meryem stay away from the village and go into hiding and eventually meet a professor whose yacht they work on.  Eventually, as the story goes on Meryem begins to remember more details of her rape.  I do not want to ruin the film for anybody, but I really enjoyed the way the movie showed how even the most barbaric practices can occur in a modernized place like Turkey.  I also just love the actress who played her and the plot.  It is not a hyped movie, but I am glad I discovered it!

5.) The Stoning of Soraya M. – Iran

Yes, I know, why choose such a depressing film?  Honestly, I am one of those people with tons of morbid curiosity.  No, I do not recommend this film if you feel like you want all non-reality, but this is the first Persian/Farsi-language film I ever have seen.  After it I became more interested in films made in Iran.  The title pretty much tells you the main story, but I would not like to give away the reason behind Soraya’s stoning as that would be no fun, but let’s just say it was due to her greedy and absolutely gross husband.  Either way, I think the movie reveals the irony of the way religion is used for power and how in the process innocent people (especially women) die for it.

4.)  Chyen Tinh Xaxu (Passport to Love) – Vietnam

I discovered this movie very randomly on a Saturday night when I needed a study break.  At first I was a bit skeptical, but much to my surprise it was a hilarious romantic comedy.  It basically is about two Vietnamese exchange students studying in LA.  One, named Hieu, is a nerdy Bill Gates wannabe with the sweetest girlfriend back in Vietnam and is in complete dilemma when he falls for an American-born Vietnamese girl, who is the daughter of one of his parents’ friends.  The other, Khang, is a rich playboy who meets a woman that he falls head over heels for in LA.  I especially found his father to be hilarious.  Anyways, there is a lot of awesome aspects to the movie, both serious and extremely romantic comedy-esque.  I recommend.

3.) Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) – Tamil language – India

This is the second Tamil movie I have ever watched, and another indication of why Nandita Das is so darn awesome.  However, she was not a main character in this film, although she was pretty much the “object of pursuit” in the film.  To understand that is to understand the story, which is of 9 year old Amudha who, with the help of her adopted parents, seeks to find her birth mother, Shyama, in Sri Lanka.  The story behind her birth mother is in a backdrop of intense political violence and warfare, and the reason for her giving up her daughter is also extremely sad.  Nevertheless, it is nice to finally hear about Sri Lanka in a film, and it was interesting to hear through the actor (none other than the dreamy Madhavan)  who plays Amudha’s father and and a famous novelist.  I did not find the movie to have too many political leanings in the Sri Lankan conflict, even though the characters were all Tamil-speaking.  This was not really even the point of the film, and that is what I enjoyed about it.

2.) Hors de Prix (Priceless) – France

When people think of Audrey Tatou, the immediate answer is: Amelie.  While Amelie was great, I felt a need to explore her talent further.  And my next Audrey Tatou movie was this one.  I walked in with no expectations, but found myself loving the movie.  I would also put Coco Avant Chanel on par with this movie, but for the sake of not monopolizing Audrey Tatou and French films, I will leave it with Priceless.  This is a romantic comedy as well about a, shameless gold digger named Irène who is at a hotel one night with her boring, rich older boyfriend, but then comes across a bartender named Jean from the hotel (who is posing as a closer to her age, handsome rich man).  He pretty much continues his facade and even after she finds out, she pretty much drains his resources because he wants to continue to see her.  Despite how horrible she is to him, he does not give up.  He ends up finding his own “sugarmama” later in the film, and together Irène and Jean enjoy the sugarmama’s money (part of the comedy) all while Irène eventually starts realize she’s falling for Jean, despite her gold digging and man-eating tendencies.  While one may think the ending is a simple kiss and make up cheesy way of falling in love type of romantic comedy, think again.  It fulfills both the romantic and the comedy part, and is thoroughly recommended if you are looking to start your career in French foreign film wannabe conniseurism.

1.) Ip Man – China

I’m not a Kung Fu movie watcher, but Ip Man, hands down, was plain awesome.  It was not just the awesome fighting scenes, but just the character of Ip Man – and his wife.  This is first of the so far two series film (rumors are out about a third).  It is based off of the true story of the famous Bruce Lee’s master.  Outside of the fight scenes, the plot and the dialogues are quite amazing.  The story is set in Japanese occupied Fo Shan province in China during World War II.

Basically, if you have not watched this movie yet.  Stop reading this and watch it.  Even if you think Kung Fu fight scenes are so cliché, they really are not in this film.  It is not just the Kung Fu, but the way in which the story is told with it all.  The story encompasses many points that make you cry with all of the adversities Master Ip faces, in addition to many points that make you laugh (such as the moment when his wife says he’s allowed to fight in the house, but to not break any of her beautiful dishes).

So, by no means is this list at all exhaustive.  There are some other wonderful movies on Netflix, and I can go on many posts about them.  Till then, next time you are on Netflix, let yourself venture out a bit.  Maybe it is annoying to read subtitles, but you will find that you have been missing out on some great cinema and storylines that American films can surely learn a thing or two from.  Not that I do not love the great US motion pictures, but it’s great to fall into morbid curiosity and indie creativity.  Best of all, it is nice to have a little bit of insight into a country through film without having to hop on a plane (still the preferable option though, but when I miss being abroad it’s an alternative).

Happy Monday, but really now Tuesday!

P.S. – No, Netflix did not pay me for any of this.  This is simply a “cultural” streaming experience I wanted to reflect upon.

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