There's a reason why foreign language films don't aim for theatrical releases in our country. One of their biggest risks is losing money. As a consequence, cinephiles depend heavily on international film festivals for their fill of good cinema.
This year sees an impressive line-up of thoughful foreign films at international film festivals, such as Cannes. hitlist takes a dekko at some of the most promising ones which discuss themes of economic instability, political turmoil and personal struggles.
Director: Kristian Levring
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Lowdown: If a film is Danish and has a certain reach, check for Mads Mikkelsen's name in the credits. After his award-winning work in The Hunt (2012) and Michael Kohlhaas (2013), he essays the role of a Danish settler in this Western.
Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Cast: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova
Lowdown: This Ukrainian film is conveyed entirely through sign language with no subtitles whatsoever. The first feature film to have a cast entirely composed of hearing- impaired, sign-language users, it was much appreciated at Cannes.
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cast: Haluk Bilginer, Demet Akbag, Melisa Sözen
Lowdown: As has been the case with Turkish cinema, this wrenching movie, too, draws parallels between the protagonist's personal problems and the prevailing turmoil in his surroundings. A political statement that stops short of being too political.
Two Days, One Night
Director: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
Lowdown: Starring the Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard, this Belgian production showcases a gritty woman who simply can't afford to be unemployed. Her endeavour bears resemblance to the ongoing economic instability in many parts of the world.
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Cast: Shim Eun-kyung, Na Moon-hee
Lowdown: Undoubtedly the most commercially successful Korean film of the year, it's about a septuagenarian woman who finds herself in the body of her 20-year-old self after a freak incident. A Chinese remake is already in the pipeline.
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément
Lowdown: This French film from Canada is about the ups and downs of a broken family. The strained relationship between a teenaged son and his mother is complicated by the introduction of a mysterious neighbour.
Director: John Woo
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Song Hye-kyo, Takeshi Kaneshiro
Lowdown: Red Cliff 1 & 2 (2008-09) were Woo's last ventures as director. And this time around, he's back with a period film about three Chinese couples who wish to flee to Taiwan to avoid communist rule.
Black Coal, Thin Ice
Director: Diao Yinan
Cast: Liao Fan, Gwei Lun-Mei, Wang Xuebing
Lowdown: This crime story, set in 1990s China, is about a suspended cop-turned-detective. He investigates a series of killings, and falls in love with a suspect. Liao Fan has won several gongs for his performance.
The Little House
Director: Yoji Yamada
Cast: Takako Matsu, Haru Kuroki, Hidetaka Yoshioka
Lowdown: This atypical Japanese movie takes a look at the WWII era through the eyes of a domestic help. Typically enough, the protagonist hides her hardships while putting up a brave front.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast: Aleksei Serebryakov, Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Lowdown: Leviathan begins with a property dispute, but gradually evolves into a dark thriller. With captivating visuals and a thinly-veiled swipe at Putin's regime in some scenes, this peculiar Russian fare is bound to travel far and wide.
Director: Dominik Graf
Cast: Florian Stetter, Hannah Herzsprung, Henriette Confurius
Lowdown: Seldom do we come across a German film with an aristocratic touch. In this 18th-century period drama, a love triangle is in place between two royally-connected sisters and the celebrated poet, Friedrich Schiller.
Xi You (Journey to the West)
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Denis Lavant
Lowdown: One of the massive hits of the year in China, Xi You is inspired by a 16th century Chinese literary classic about a Buddhist monk — played by Lee — who endures a long journey to obtain sacred texts.