Movie Round-up: From Spain to Indonesia

Until now I am still solving the puzzle of why I became so attached to foreign films (and by foreign films, they are apart from the filled-with-cliche American films) and until now, the quest is a failure.

I am actually regretting the fact that I am only “introduced” to foreign films later this year that there were a lot of foreign film festival held in the country like the Brazilian films festival and the French film festival. I missed them! This interest in foreign films is one of the things I look forward to in the year 2012. I’m really going to visit any cinema as far as to the corners of Metro Manila just to see an outstanding foreign film.

It all began with a Spanish film festival held at Greenbelt in Makati. I must say I am also a fan of Spanish-related stuff since I took Spanish language lessons and I’m really enjoying it. If before, I wanted to Europe as my ultimate travel destination, now it only falls number two on my list. South America becomes my top destination.

And so, *drum rolls* here are the best foreign language films that I’ve watched which have changed the way I look at the world for a few minutes after I’ve seen them:

1. Chico Y Rita (Chico and Rita) – Spanish

It is an animated film not suitable for children. Why? It had those animated boobs and animated sex scenes in it. Chico Y Rita revolves around the love story between the piano player Chico and the singer Rita, both from Cuba. They had incredible dreams. They were together and parted ways, each facing its own destiny until in the end, only one made it to real stardom.

The movie tells about a love story between two individuals who each takes pride on their own. The main character Rita sacrifices her love for Chico and goes with another man in exchange for stardom and celebrity perks. However, in the middle of the story, Rita is troubled with problems attached to her chosen lover and ended up living in dire straits.

Chico finds her again one day on their old age and they together celebrate the love which should have been celebrated during the years when they are apart.

2. Vincere (Victory) – Spanish

This Italian film is probably one of the greatest films I have ever seen. At this very moment, I couldn’t yet think of any film that can surpass its outstanding plot and screenplay. It is unlike any other historical film in such a way that it is taken from the point of view of a woman, the wife of Italian ruler Benito Mussolini.

Reading the film critically, it tackles issues unthinkable for a historical films such as religion, breastfeeding, Christmas, mental illness, and social order. The story moves around two wives of Mussolini who each wants to prove that their sons are worthy of becoming the heir of Benito Mussolini.

The mixture of great art, music, theatrical feel, and the film itself made it favorable to Rotten Tomatoes, a major film critic.

It said, giving the film with a 92% rating: “Part political treatise, part melodrama, Marco Bellocchio’s Mussolini biopic forsakes historical details in favor of absorbing emotion — and provides a showcase for a stunning performance from Giovanna Mezzogiorno.”

3. A Matter of Size – Israeli

Two days after the screening of Vincere, I chanced upon an advertisement on the ticket counter of Greenbelt Cinemas promoting the showing of an internationally-acclaimed film A Matter of Size which became an official selection in Cannes and Tribeca Film Festival.

It narrates the story of five overweight and obese individuals in Israeli who try to regain respect and dignity by proving to the whole of Israel that being fat should not be seen as a social contempt. One of them whose boss is a former Sumo wrestling referee, a Japanese national, attempts to encourage his boss to train them how to Sumo wrestle. The boss rejects the offer thinking that the sport involves a lot of devotion and heart to it and he believes his would-be students may not be able to take it.

He insists and gets the approval. They train for days and set up a national Sumo wrestling competition. The day of the competition brings about a lot of changes to each of the Israeli wrestler’s life – social acceptance, pride,  and the regaining of a lover’s love.

4. Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons) – Italian

Mine Vaganti is close to every Filipino’s heart as it narrates the struggles of  a man named Tommaso as he tries to hide his being a homosexual from the expectations of his family. The most crucial point comes when his gay friends from Rome where Tommaso studies visited his hometown. They too, were challenged in hiding their true nature. But it didn’t last long as Tommaso tries to tell his parents of his nature but certain things erupt that makes his stop from doing so. Instead, he confesses the fact that he wants to become a writer rather than from being a businessman which is what his family wants him to be.

5. Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope) – Italian

It papal elections in Vatican City and the search is on for the new pope. But what happens when the newly-elected Pope begins to turn back from his duty?

This is what the film is all about. A newly-elected Pope who is about the speak to his constituents turns back from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and runs away from his mandate. In the course of the story, he learns how the people are expectant of a new Pope by escaping from his quarters and mingling with the people waiting for him in the Vatican City grounds.

When he comes back with all the learnings, the worst is yet to come.

6. Tambien La Lluvia (Even the Rain) – Spanish

Tambien La Lluvia won the Audience Choice Award in the Spanish film festival Pelicula Pelikula held at Makati Greenbelt last October. I can say it deserved the award.

The story moves around a film crew who travels to Bolivia to shoot a film about Cristobal Colon (Chistopher Columbus) but is faced with a lot of challenges. The shooting of the film is distracted when one of the main characters who auditioned for the role has had affairs of his own. He is part of a nationwide strike against authorities who want to seize the distribution of water among the citizens.

One of the film crew members begin making a documentary about the strikes. The story escalates when the masses begin swarming to the central city and barricading the area which prevented the crew members to escape the hostilities and come back home. Two of the film crews choose to remain in the country to help the people ease their pains.

7. Cinta (Love) – Indonesian

I was in cloud nine when I found this poster promoting the screening of Indonesian films at the College of Arts and Letters at the University of the Philippines- Diliman. While we were shown the film, we were served with Indonesian snacks – a beef and vegetable wrap like a burrito and a shrimp and meat torta (sorry for the lack of a term.)

The story is about two love-crossed persons, one of whom is a Muslim and the other a Christian. Interviews with other lovers who have different religions on their own are shown at every turn of the scenes. The film ended well with the lovers being part of the interview itself.

8. Agora – Spanish

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, the film is about the war-torn times of Alexandria during the 4th century Roman Egypt. One side are the Christians which are mostly composed of the peasantry and the other side are the pagans who believed in multiple gods composed mostly of the nobility.

The film stars Rachel Weisz who portayed Hypatia. Hypatia is challenged as she tries to preserve knowledge as well as the scriptures in the Library of Alexandria when the angry Christians begin storming the library.

She is also into a quest of finding the “truths” in the universe challenging Ptolemy’s Geocentric theory and ends up with the heliocentric theory of Aristarchus of Samos. His search for more knowledge angered the Christians who still used to believe that the Earth is the center of the Universes. She ends up being stoned to death.

This film was an official selection in the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.

9. El Violin (The Violin) – Spanish

Deemed as one of the greatest films telling part of Mexico’s untold stories, award-winning film El Violin is about a violinist who is part of the rebel community who gains access to the government’s base by enthralling the government forces with his playing of the violin.

Because of this, he is able to get ammunitions kept in the village resided by the government forces and is a former camp of the rebels and bring it back to his comrades.

But this old man both becomes  a blessing and a curse for the rebels.

El Violin earned as 94 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes and was part of the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.

10. El Corazon de la Tierra (The Heart of the Earth)

Two women. One common cause. One is an Englishwoman who is able to denounce his uncle’s wishes who owns a mining company in Spain, the other is a Spanish-born lady who tries to win the rights of the poor by turning against the running of the disastrous mining company.

This is among the first 10 movies I’ve watched and I’ve liked. So if you have any recommendations or if you chanced upon a screening of a foreign language film, help me by either commenting on this post, emailing me at jonlindley_agustin@yahoo.com, or by texting me at 09054979443.

Until next time!

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