Tag Archives: Best Foreign Film

Film Review: Drive My Car (2021)

After his wife’s unexpected death, theater veteran Yūsuke Kafuku seeks to escape from the sadness of her loss and works on a new theater project. During the project, he meets new people and a young chauffeur with whom he quests for the answers that have been missing for a while.

Why a Japanese film like Drive My Car is essential for the audience? I ask the same for those who listen to podcasts. The critical reason is that many are disturbed in their lives and try to find a source of their ultimate escapism through various mediums. Some find peace in reading books, and some find their missing puzzle in listening to podcasts. In the same way, this three-hour drama captivates that particular audience who searches for answers after losing something really precious. The years pass by, but the mind and the soul doesn’t obstinate to pull new strings and ease the pain unattached.

This masterpiece runs in your veins and grows with time. Almost every point the director Ryusuke Hamaguchi chose to make was punching, accurate, and so well crafted. On so many occasions, this film hit me and I asked myself how excellent were the shots taken. Like Kafuku returning home after the flight gets canceled, or Kafuku’s supporting actors trying to continue the performance or Takatsuki’s 12-minute conversation with Kafuku in the car, or the heartbreaking moment of Watari showing Kafuku her childhood home, or the mute girl cheering the old character in the final act.

I think it is the method that keeps all this storytelling, shooting a scene and making it look beautiful, compelling performances roll into one and give a product that stops your breath for a second or makes you thoughtful. Films like this move you because Drive My Car is one of the best visual translations of human emotions.

Even if I corner the tragic parts of the film aside, there is still a tremendous depth and buildup in writing. From audition to the final product, the film constructs an accurate understanding of the theater project.

There is a reason why this film made it to the Oscars and became the first-ever Japanese to reach Best Picture. Drive My Car recently created history to become the first non-American film to win Best Picture from all three major prestigious American critics groups which are NYFCC, NSFC, and LAFCA. And I strongly feel that Drive My Car will win Best International Feature Film at the Oscars.

Everyone performed well but Hidetoshi Nishijima as Kafuku was the soul of the film. Drive My Car is a cinematic marvel. The audience must watch this masterpiece.

Ratings: 9/10

Film Review: Lunana – A Yak in the Classroom (2019)

While I was doing a wiki on the recently released nominations for the Oscars, I observed this film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, in the Best International Feature Film category. What surprised me was the fact that this film came all over from Bhutan. I had never watched a Bhutanese film before and Lunana created history to represent Bhutan for the first time in the Oscars. After further research, the film’s reputation impressed me that this film has reached various film festivals for screening and won a couple of biggies like Palm Springs International Film Festival and had a World Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

Lunana is a beautiful remote valley of Bhutan. With a few houses and an extremely limited population, people here make their living from yaks and sheep. The film is about young Ugyen who is enrolled for training in teaching. But his heart is in becoming a singer and moving to Australia for a better living. The institute moves him to Lunana for a temporary period to teach small kids. Meeting some new social challenges and way of living getting tougher, Ugyen experiences life like never before.

This film heavily reminded me of Ashutosh Gowariker‘s Swades and Greg Mortenson‘s famous book Three Cups of Tea because Lunana excitingly had elements of both. Like rural simplicities, hospitality, and generosity from both, Himalayan mountain climbing to teaching in a least-facilitated school from the book, reluctant of adapting rural methods but going 360 for the betterment from the film. Lunana is a hybrid sense of finesse for a film and a book.

Watching a Bhutanese film for the first time, I actually am impressed with the filmmaking as obviously there has to be the reason why this film came to international fame. The first forty minutes have quite a slow and steady buildup to the story. Ugyen’s character development is the clear winner. His character complexity in traveling Lunana to enthusiasm for children are the best parts of screenwriting. The audience goes with the flow; the audience travels to Lunana with him and feels his jeopardy.

With a delicate sense of detailing, the director Pawo Choyning Dorji has shot the film with meticulous care. A lot of small portions are taken care of that means a lot. There is a thoughtful moment when in Lunana, Ugyen observes the old villager without shoes. He reasons that he doesn’t have money to fill his feet. In the next scene, his child shows up to his bare feet in her shoes. Very touching. The scene had nothing to do with the plot but these are the segments where the director gives value to the sub-detailing that builds the characters and gives the audience their part of the theory.

There is a scene where Ugyen teaches ‘C for Car’ but the kids do not recognize what a car is. So he replaces the car with a cow because they are familiar with that. In the world of automobiles, the director gives the audience their chance to realize that there are remote places where a thing called a car can neither exist nor humankind can imagine such a thing to exist.

I keep writing about the film being Bhutanese but I am compelled due to the filmmaking brilliance that I wasn’t expecting to be that good. Yes, it is a predictable story with the script nowhere meeting its tragic anti-climax or any sign of negative energy about an outsider influencing people of a certain place; but the productional aesthetics and the screenplay are just marvelous.

Lunana successfully conveys the message that the simplest ways of life can transform a human into happiness. Reaching the Oscar is a historic moment in their history and the film deserves its piece of the limelight. Lunana is a beautiful drama and highly recommended to all the viewers.

Ratings: 8.3/10

Movie Review: The Song of Sparrows (2008)

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Ostrich….. Goldfish….. Tomans….. Listening Aid….. Sparrow….. 

There are reasons I prefer watching International movies belonging to different countries. The biggest reason is that most of the movies produced under different banners come up with an entirely fresh story, fetch an amazing scale of presentation and watch unfamiliar and different art of film-making. By this way, you get more awareness of cultural understanding of different cinemas, their film-makers, their artists and many more. The title of the movie and trailers on YouTube were worth to convince me for downloading and watching it. And so that happen.

Karim is an old man who lives in the village near Tehran. He is a kind-hearted, simple and humble man working in ostrich pen. He has a wife with three children. His eldest issue Haniyeh has listening problem and use listening aid. One day, Haniyeh broke her listening aid. Karim takes the aid to main city of Tehran to fix in one of workshop but the technician informs him that it is of no use and have to buy a new one which is 350,000 Tomans.

He would have easily paid the amount if the very next day, one of the ostrich would not have escaped. It was a hilarious scene and in fact it is a funny movie too. The timing of comedy is realistic and full of life. Losing an ostrich means losing almost 2 million Tomans and losing Tomans simply means Karim won’t be able to buy listening aid for Haniyeh. A typical hardship begins!!

Mistaken for a cab driver by a frantic businessman, he discovers a lucrative new occupation ferrying passengers around the city on the back of his bike. During this hardship phase, he confronts with life’s amazing nature of events which is a part of life of a common man. The story goes deep with different circumstances he meet to fulfill Haniyeh’s requirement and steps many walks of life. It is not only about struggling for Haniyeh but his own life changes. Everyday he bring new discarded item to home for social betterment and at the same time collect money for his different jobs. 

When Haniyeh’s need for listening aid and bringing discarded items to house wasn’t enough, his son Hussein wishes to buy a goldfish to make it swim in the pond by removing the sludge, which Karim rejects the idea. One day Karim meet an accident when the pile of junk collapses and severely injures him. Now you have to see yourself how he buys listening aid for Haniyeh.

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‘The Song of Sparrows’ is Iranian movie produced in 2008 and directed by one of Iran’s finest film-maker Majid Majidi. The leading cast is Iran’s iconic actor Reza Naji and that was fourth Majidi-Naji collaboration in Iranian cinema. Only two languages have been spoken in the whole movie; Persian and Azeri (Azerbaijan). The movie is a blend of joys and sorrows distributed in Karim’s family.

Karim is an amazing figure and portrayal of a jeopardized father who keeps his misery aside and strives his best to make the house home. One significant feature of Karim’s role is that Naji played a role of 40-year-old man who actually was 66 at the time of making. His role convinces how rural people face misfortunes specially when they are making their bread from village to city. 

The best scenes of the movie were when Karim don’t have change of 500-note to give to street girl at traffic signal and boys dropping a big can of goldfish latter. Both scenes have tremendous timing of hiccups and picking of body language towards the making of scene which make you think. 

The Song of Sparrows was Iran’s submission for the 2008 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Reza Naji won Silver Bear in 2008 Berlin International Film Festival which made him the first Iranian actor ever to win Silver Bear and also won Best Actor award in 2008 Asia-Pacific Screen Awards.

I shall end the review with statement made by the director Majid Majidi about his intention of making this movie: “My aim was to portray contemporary people today vis-à-vis the modern world in order to show how the era of modernization has put human beings in a stranglehold. By this I do not mean that I am opposed to modernity, per se. Modernization should be at the service of humanity, yet people find themselves conquered by it. The result is that with each passing day we are becoming more distant from our own human values. . . . All of our values — including friendship, morality and beauty — become less important day by day. In opposition to this process, my aim was to say that we must return to our human essence or else face a major disaster in the future.

Ratings: 8.3/10

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