Five non-English language films to watch in quarantine

As the outspread of the Covid-19 virus aggravates, we tend to hear more and more about ways to relieve the boredom and despair of the presence between the same four walls for as long as we yet cannot know, and ways to develop this special self-time into our benefit. In this blog I’ll choose not to go against that idea and recommend to the English-speaking readers five foreign language movies to enrich the cultural knowledge.

Wisdom of the Pretzel (2002, Israel)

Wisdom of the Pretzel by Ilan Heitner (2002). Wikipedia: Yoav Barudo

Ilan Heitner’s adaption of his own novel by the same name, leads the audience through the journey of a single young man in the big city and raises questions about the meaning of life, love and friendship. Using the best visual simplicity, the film reminds the Dogme 95 movement and the ideas of the French new wave that helped shaping the independent cinema. Thus, it earned it’s place in my recommendations list.

Paradise Now (2005, Palestine)

Paradise Now by Hany Abu-Assad (2005). Wikimedia Commons/Elvert Barnes

In a small jump to the Palestinian cinema we come across Hany Abu-Assad’s controversial drama, that presents, among many topics,  the spectrum of attitudes of the Palestinian battle reflected from the story of two childhood friends who decide to commit a suicide attack in Israel, and questions the concept of heroism and betrayal in the Palestinian narrative. The film expresses the internal relations in the Palestinian society of economic class relations, religion, family honor and the impact of living under the Israeli occupation. And among the many reasons to watch this movie, maybe learning about the other side of the conflict as usually not presented to us, is the best reason to watch it.

Ida (2013, Poland)

Ida by Paweł Pawlikowski (2013). Screenshot:Vimeo/Curzon

Pawel Pawlikowski’s historical drama could not be complete without the black and white cinematography on aspect ratio 4:3 (which makes the screen more quadric), the common style in the Polish film industry in the 60’s, which grants the film with its unique obsolete tone. In the plot of the film, a young nun, before taking her vows, is revealed by her aunt to her true identity. Together they go on a journey of self-search and discovery of their family’s history. The movie open great wounds in the Polish history including the Christians-Jewish relations in the holocaust and the totalitarian communist regime. This eighty-two minutes feature leaves you breathless through the entire experience.

The Salesman (2016, Iran)

The Salesman (Forushande) by Asghar Farhadi (2016) Flickr CC/wolfgangkuhnle

Continuing the rise of the Iranian Cinema, and Asghar Farhadi’s personal career, comes “The Salesman”. The lead characters are a married couple who perform in the play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller. The play becomes a plot inside a plot when few crises happen in their lives, and they both try to deal with them in separate ways. The dilemma between forgiveness and revenge and the recovering and dealing with post trauma Occupy a considerable part of the of the films plot.

A Borrowed Identity (Israel, 2014)

A Borrowed Identity (Dancing Arabs) by Eran Riklis (2014). Screenshot: Vimeo/California Film Institute

Unlike most films, in which the work of the director receives most of the attention, in Eran Riklis’s “A Borrowed Identity”, or in free translation of its original name “Dancing Arabs”, I’ll give the attention to the screenwriter Sayed Kashua. In his writings, the auteur signature returns again and again as the struggle of the Arabic citizens of Israel to define themselves between their Palestinian and Israeli identity, a reflection sometimes partly and sometimes fully based on his personal life and experiences. But somehow, in “Dancing Arabs”, the adoption of two of his novels, “Dancing Arabs” and “Second Person Singular”, conveys this message in the ultimate way. Kashua shares his criticism of the Israeli Jewish and Arabic societies in the most objective and reliable view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “A Borrowed Identity” was very underrated for a creation in its scale and failed in theaters, yet, it completes the list of non-English language movies recommendations to watch in your new free time.

About the Author
Yair Stolik, born in 1998, lives in Nordiya, Israel. A cinema major in high school, he is now a Cinematographer in the IDF Spokesperson's unit.
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