The films we get to see here in Australia are fairly homogeneous. The stock of movies shown are largely American, British, and to a lesser extent Australian. Independent cinema groups are doing their bit to promote films from other countries by running foreign film festivals – still, these are predominantly French, Spanish, German.
So I do enjoy watching a film that comes from outside these bounds, and recently have seen films from Iran, Turkey and Russia. Each showed contemporary life in those cultures and dealt with familiar familial and societal issues.
A Separation from Iran depicts a professional middle class family planning to emigrate. The wife and mother in the film is the driver for the move. Her strength and determination, and the action she is prepared to take to provide a better life for her child, is the striking theme to the story. For her husband the choices are more complex as he cares for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease – a reminder to all of us with aging parents that the carers eventually become the dependents.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia expresses everyday life in Turkey through the slowly unfolding narratives by the central characters. The underlying story of a police investigation meanders through the film, while we learn about the Policeman, the Prosecutor and the Doctor. A child with difficulties, a man deeply impacted by a tragedy, and an outsider keeping his reserve are played out in the setting of a regional Turkish city.
Elena is a Russian film set in Moscow. Elena has married a wealthy man and they live in a beautiful apartment. Each has a child from a previous marriage – Elena’s son is dependent on financial aid from her to support his family; Vladimir is estranged from his daughter. This dark film deals with the theme of blood ties and how the strength of that bond can lead someone to an extreme act.
The insight to another culture, another society’s mores and values, and how that society deals with the same social and family issues of our time are what I enjoy most about these films from outside the norm.
What I never know is how representative of that country’s film industry they are; in particular, are they films that resonate with their own audiences?
All images from www.imdb.com