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April 29, 2005

Five Foreign Films Everyone Should See (In No Particular Order)

Sascha Rubin

      I don't know about you, but I think Hollywood is churning out a lot of BS lately. Sahara? Beauty Shop? Wow, we're really confronting the tough issues in American movies these days. So, while Hitch was cute, and Sin City well, that was different, to say the least, I decided to compile a little list of films from outside the land of Stars and Stripes (gasp!). Some are just plain entertaining, and others actually get you to—gosh, what's the word—oh yeah, think.

1. City of God
      Not a film for the weak-stomached. This film is a somber portrayal of the gangster lifestyle in a violent Rio de Janeiro neighborhood which follows the paths of two young friends from childhood to early adulthood. There is a happy ending for one of the boys, but the journey there is gruesome and brutal. Definitely offers a powerful perspective on life in this part of the world.

2. Run Lola Run
      As the title may suggest, this movie is, well, fast. And wacky. The Berlin-based film features funky techno/electronic music in the background and random animated bits as Lola runs to save her boyfriend's life. (He's in a little money jam—figures.) The coolest part, I found, was the fact that the picture offers three different endings, with no hint as to which is the "right" one. Second coolest part: Lola's really red hair.

3. Good Bye Lenin!
      Simultaneously funny and serious, the film deals with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall as it relates to a family of East Berliners. The funny part: the mother falls into a coma before the fall of the Wall, and her son goes to great lengths to protect her from the shock of the new, westernized East Berlin, complete with Coca-Cola and Burger King. The movie also sheds light on the more difficult parts of the adjustment after reunification. All in all, the cultural clash of "East meets West" is revealed on a very personal level, with some important messages about extreme political ideologies.

4. L'Auberge Espagnole
      If this film doesn't make you want to go study abroad, I don't know what will. Featuring three languages (French, Spanish, and English), the plot basically centers around a young French guy who studies in Barcelona for a year, and his lovable, international crew of roommates. Fun, witty, and fast-paced, it was described by one film critic as "a younger and European version of Friends."

5. Maria Full of Grace
      Powerful. A 17-year-old Columbian girl is forced to enter the world of underground drug trafficking to earn some money. In one of the most gripping scenes of the movie, she agrees to transport small bags of cocaine in her stomach en route to New York. This film was highly acclaimed—the actress who plays Maria was even nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at this year's Academy Awards, an "Oscar nod" not usually seen by actresses in foreign films. Like City of God, this movie is worth seeing if only to witness the scary levels of crime and corruption which poverty engenders.

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