According to a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, American attendance at foreign language films dropped exponentially during the last decade. Carrie Rickey reports that foreign film ticket sales account for less than 1 percent of business at the US box office.
Whatever lead to this drop in screenings and ticket sales is difficult to identify. It might have been any combination of factors, such as film studios’ marketing techniques, increased DVD distribution and sales, domestic and international politics, and even possibly a growing form of lingual xenophobia throughout the nation.
Foreign films haven’t always fared so poorly in the U.S., Rickey writes:
The decline in number and popularity of foreign-language films in America is a historical paradox. Before World War I, when America was at its most isolationist, more foreign than American films played on U.S. screens. Today, despite a globalized economy, domestic product dominates to the virtual exclusion of all else.
We don’t want foreign films to disappear from the American movie landscape– they remain a great way to expose American moviegoers to new languages and cultures. We’re starting a new feature that will highlight some of the best foreign films playing at the theater. We’ll provide you with plot synopses and trailers. All you need to do is make your way to a local art house and enjoy these films on the big screen.
Director: Maren Ade, Language: German
On the surface, Chris and Gitti are perfectly in love while enjoying their time in Sardinia. Beneath their playful romps, secret rituals and silly habits however lies an underlying tension. Full of verve, the idiosyncratic Gitti is fearless in expressing her love and devotion for Chris, while Chris is more reserved in his outlook on life. When they accidentally run into another, obviously happier and more successful couple their fragile relationship destabilizes. But as their fears and insecurities are brutally exposed, Chris and Gitti get a second chance to discover themselves and each other – and to be as happy as everyone else. –© Cinema Guild
Director: Gianni Di Gregorio, Language: Italian
This international smash hit from the makers of Gomorrah is an utterly charming tale of good food, feisty ladies and unlikely friendships during a very Roman holiday. Broke, and armed with only a glass of wine and a wry sense of humor, middle-aged Gianni (director and screenwriter Gianni Di Gregorio) is forced to entertain his 93-year-old mother and three other lively mamas in their ancient apartment during Italy’s biggest summer holiday, Pranzo di Ferragosto. Winner of prizes at international festivals including Best First Film at Venice and the Satyajit Ray Award at London, plus the Golden Snail at the Academy of Food and Film in Bologna, Mid-August Lunch is both warmly vibrant family drama and delicately balanced comedy of manners. –© Zeitgeist
No One Knows About Persian Cats
Director: Bahman Ghobadi, Language: Farsi
Recently released from prison, two young musicians decide to form a band. Together they search the underworld of contemporary Tehran for other players. Forbidden by the authorities to play in Iran, they plan to escape from their clandestine existence, and dream of performing in Europe. But with no money and no passports, it won’t be easy. –© IFC
Director: Jacques Audiard, Language: French
Condemned to six years in prison, 19 year-old Malik El Djbena cannot read nor write. Arriving at the jail entirely alone, he appears younger and more fragile than the other convicts. Cornered by the leader of the Corsican gang who rules the prison, he is given a number of “missions” to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leader’s confidence in the process. But Malik is brave and a fast learner, daring to secretly develop his own plans. –© Optimum
Original source photo provided by The Powerhouse Museum Collection