EU Film Fest: See the world through movies

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Poster design/Conception de l’affiche par Ghyslain Gagnon

Who likes so-called foreign films?

I do, although I may not always “get” them.

Case in point, the spouse and I recently watched a film from India, Āgaṇṭuka = Stranger (1991). Described as:

A wise and witty world traveler returns to Calcutta after 35 years to visit his niece, who had only briefly known him as a child. She accepts the stranger’s story, but her suspicious husband believes the long-lost uncle is an imposter who has come to claim an inheritance.

Much of the movie’s main tension concerned the tremendous scandal and mystery of a family member who just up and left. The film’s intended audience would have known the magnitude of that action in their gut. But from my cultural landscape, mobility and independence are so taken for granted the tension of what mystery uncle did had to be imagined. Uncle’s wit and wisdom were somewhat muddy to me too.

To belabor the obvious, sometimes content is universal and easily understood. Other times one has to stretch and guess, which is not a bad thing either. In the case of this movie, I would’ve been grateful for a cultural guide to explain the references and their significance.

All this is a lead-in to a mention of a current film event, Ottawa’s 29th European Union Film Festival, taking place Nov 13-30. Presenting 27 films in 23 languages.

Each Festival evening will be introduced by EU Member State Ambassadors, exclusive video greetings from filmmakers, or by special guests. Many nights are followed by complimentary Embassy receptions for all audience members. All of the films shown are Ottawa premieres, presented at the Auditorium of 395 Wellington St., Ottawa (Library and Archives Canada building).

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La cage dorée was directed by Ruben Alves and stars Rita Blanco and Joaquim de Almeida. The film won numerous awards in Europe

I’ve only seen one of the films already, The Gilded Cage, a 2013 France/Portugal film.

Here’s how a viewer from Portugal wrote that up for the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) website:

A couple of Portuguese immigrants living and working in Paris, France for more than 30 years, she a janitor in a condominium and he a mason in a small firm, receive the information that a distant relative in Portugal has left them a fortune as heritage but with the condition that they must return to live in Portugal. This creates great stress to them since they both maintain very cordial relations with their bosses and their children are already grown-up French citizens who are not in the mood of going to Portugal a country very strange to them. Their bosses (chiefly the husband’s one) try to improve their working conditions to prevent their leaving. All this story develops itself in several episodes full of humour without breaking its natural realism and the authenticity of the labour, family and social relations (with ups and downs). A funny story that gives you a happy frame of mind mixed up with a healthy sentimentality. A final word for the cast’s performance both of the Portuguese (Rita Blanco, Maria Vieira and Joaquim de Almeida among others) and the French which is excellent and very convincing moreover.

As an American who has lived the past 15 years in Canada, the theme of dual-identity and the push/pull of old and new was something that truly resonates. It’s a fine, fun film – see it if you can.

An engaging historical comedy/drama from South Korea

Gwanghae, Wangyidoen namja features a tour de force performance by Byung-hun Lee

Another foreign film I would recommend is Masquerade (South Korea, 2012). As summarized by this Hollywood Reporter review:

Recalling both Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and the political satire DaveMasquerade is a lavish historical drama from South Korea about a commoner recruited to impersonate a tyrannical king. Gorgeously mounted, it’s far more accessible than the usual imported Asian period dramas that require extensive historical knowledge, and the welcome doses of humor make its 131-minute running time go down easily.

That’s my current short list. What so-called foreign film(s) would you recommend?


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3 Comments on “EU Film Fest: See the world through movies”

  1. Jane W says:

    Thanks for this. I love requesting foreign films on my Netflix account. Here are a few that I’ve liked.

    The Scent of Green Papaya
    The First Grader
    The Women on the 6th Floor
    The Intouchables

  2. Pete Klein says:

    When I was in high school, I did enjoy going to see foreign films, especially those with Brigitte Bardot, Charles Aznavour and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Bardot was funny and beautiful too.

  3. Jane W says:

    Wadja also…

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