Foreign Cinema and Series

I did not intentionally seek out foreign films and television series. It was as if the Netflix series sought me out. First, I stumbled upon Fauda (which means “chaos” in Arabic), an Israeli television series political thriller that captured my interest and then drew me in like a sponge. I binge-watched season one, the only one yet available on Netflix. The fact that its languages were, primarily, Hebrew and Arabic did not bother me; the subtitles were well-done and, after a short while, it didn’t even occur to me that I was reading the subtitles instead of understanding the spoken dialogue.

The next accidental involvement in a foreign series was yet another first-season Netflix find, a fascinating dark police drama-psychological thriller called The Break (La trêve is the original French title), set in a small town in the Belgian Ardennes. Again, I binge-watched the season and I’m desperately awaiting season two. Like the first series, I easily and quickly fell comfortably at ease with the subtitles. The program follows a recently-relocated police inspector, who returns to the town of his youth after a personal tragedy. His first and only “big” case involves the death of an African immigrant footballer and a cadre of people whose flaws may or may not include murdering the young man. For a variety of reasons, The Break reminded me of another foreign crime drama program, this one a British television series called Broadchurch. I understand the third season of Broadchurch will air beginning next month on ITV; I don’t think I will be able to see it until it finds its way to Netflix. A French version of the series Malaterra, may one day find its way to Netflix. An American version of the first season, Gracepoint, wasn’t nearly as satisfying as Broadchurch. As I was exploring the related pieces and discovering which series reminded me of The Break, Netflix suggested to me that I might enjoy watching Deep, another French television series (one season only). I rather like that Netflix has the uncanny ability to read my mind, offering up suggestions of programs that might interest me. But I also find it a bit scary. Let me return to the track from which I ran off.

After realizing I could not longer satisfy my thirst for more of either of the two series (each of which I hope will return with the availability of the second season later this year), I wandered Netflix again and came upon a black comedy gangster flick called In Order of Disappearance (title, in original Norwegian, is Kraftidioten). A mild-mannered snow-plow operator, an immigrant (who migrated from Sweden, I think, but I’m not sure) named Nils, seeks revenge and justice for the murder of his son, who was murdered for a drug “crime” in which he was an unwitting participant. Nils’ attempts at justice ignites a gang war between rival drug bosses, one a locally grown Norwegian pretty boy and the other a Serbian mafia boss. The film is mostly in Norwegian, I think, but there’s Swedish, Danish, English, Serbian, and German thrown in, according to IMDb. It’s funny and violent and bloody; regardless of the gore, it’s an enormously entertaining film, running just shy of two hours.

Though I was not seeking foreign television and films, I am absolutely delighted I came across these gems. My sister-in-law, when she learned that I enjoyed the series, suggested I try to get my hands on A Village in France.  Alas, Netflix offers suggestions of entertainment that might be similar to it, but they do not offer it. Damn! I think I need to keep track of the foreign films and series I watch. These three are by no means the only ones I’ve watched; only the most recent. As I try to remember earlier programs, the ones that come to mind are: Hyena Road (the most recent), a Canadian film about the experiences of Canadian troops in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan that does not rate terribly high on my list and The White Helmets, a British documentary about the horrific experiences of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Maybe I’m just tired of American television and film or, rather, the silliness of most of it. That’s of course too much of a generalization; there’s plenty on American television and enough coming out of Hollywood to keep me both entertained and intellectually stimulated. But there’s just so damn MUCH coming out; I guess I don’t want to wade through it looking for decent material. It’s easier stumbling across something on Netflix, something that’s been curated for a discerning audience. Does anyone else hate the overuse of that word—curated—of late? It’s as if an entire generation of media writers has come across the word and fallen in love with it. Arghh!

Enough energy devoted to documenting my affection for foreign film; maybe I’ll go look for more.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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