Foreign Language Films
March 3, 2020
“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to many more amazing films,” said Parasite director Bong Joon Ho during his Golden Globes speech for Best Foreign-Language Film. Although those flashing words upon a screen may seem small and non-significant, they foster a stigma against foreign movies.
As Americans, we are often surrounded by diversity, whether it be through race, sexuality, and cultures. However, there is a hidden stigma towards foreign films in our communities; oftentimes, many people will not watch foreign movies simply because they are in a different language or encompass different cultural values. Masterpieces, like A Touch Of Sin and Arabian Nights, are often overlooked and under-appreciated for the simple presence of an unfamiliar language and a flash of text. Some films are even “americanized”, adapted to be in English and starring American actors. These American remakes lose the impact, cultural values, and deep messages that accompany the originals. Oldboy, a widely-acclaimed South-Korean thriller, was remade in 2013, however, the American remake lacked the brutal, violent impact and intricately-weaved plot the original boasted. The American Oldboy simply brought superficial storytelling and Josh Brolin to the table.
The stigma against subtitles is slightly understandable; reading them can often make you miss flashes of the visuals, and mistranslations can lead to confusion. One stepping stone to better appreciate foreign films may be watching “mixtures”, such as Okja, a story set in Korea with a melting-pot cast of Korean and American. Okja, directed by Bong Joon Ho, works as a perfect gate to foreign films as it is mostly in English, but contains constant sprinkles of Korean and details much of their culture. It also spins a tale deep with levels referring to global warming and animal abuse. If one can look past the subtitles, they will be able to explore a new world of film, culture, and cinematography.