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If those winter days are feeling especially short and you’re in need of a new distraction, there’s no reason to limit your viewing options to the familiar. Since you can only binge-watch your favorite show so many times, why not try watching something from another country? International series have never been easier to find on streaming sites and subtitled films aren’t to be feared. Here are five to start with.
We Are Who We Are (Italy)
Even if you don’t know him by name, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the work of Luca Guadagnino. The respected filmmaker has directed and produced movies in Italian and English, first gaining international attention for the Tilda Swinton-starring I Am Love (2009) before reaching new levels of acclaim (including several Oscar nominations) for Call Me By Your Name (2017). He made his television debut in the fall with We Are Who We Are, an HBO series released in fall 2020 and set on an American military base in Italy. Guadagnino directed all eight episodes of the show, which follows two American teenagers coming of age and has earned highly positive reviews.
A Sun (Taiwan)
The crime drama A Sun (2019) won four of the 11 prizes it was nominated for at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, including Best Feature Film and Best Director, but it failed to find much stateside recognition until Variety film critic Peter Debruge named it the best film of 2020. Its relative obscurity is made all the stranger by the fact that it’s been available on Netflix for nearly a year — not that the streaming giant did much to promote this story of a family torn apart after its oldest son is sent to prison for taking part in a shockingly violent act. No matter: A Sun is more than worthy of your time and attention.
Another Round (Denmark)
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg have collaborated before, but never as riotously as they do in the comedy-drama Another Round (2020). Mikkelsen, who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 for his performance in Vinterbeg’s The Hunt, plays a middle-aged teacher who makes the curious decision to maintain a constant blood-alcohol level of at least 0.05% after despairing over the revelation that he’s become boring. He goes on this journey along with his friends, who got the idea from a Norwegian psychiatrist. Things go well until they don’t, with Another Round proving reminiscent of that famous line from The Simpsons: “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
La Llorona (Guatemala)
Anyone familiar with the Latin American folktale of La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”) will likely expect director Jayro Bustamante’s second film to be a straightforward horror flick. Instead, the Guatemalan director, whose earlier drama Ixcanul (2015) is only the second movie his country has ever submitted to the Academy Awards, uses the folklore as a way of exploring the lasting effects a brutal dictatorship can have on a weary nation. In this case, the fictional autocrat has his genocide conviction overturned and is allowed to return home as a free man — not that his citizens will allow him any peace and quiet, whether alive or dead. La Llorona (2019) is available exclusively on Shudder, the streaming site that’s a must for diehard horror fans.
My Brilliant Friend (Italy)
Like the Neapolitan Novels book series it's based on, My Brilliant Friend (2018) is beloved by nearly everyone familiar with it. It certainly helps that the series' author, Italian novelist Elana Ferrante, has served as a writer on each of the first two seasons — and is slated to return for the following two. (Each eight-episode season is an adaptation of one book.) A chronicle of a lifelong friendship that begins between two girls who meet at school in Naples in the 1950s, it has quickly emerged as one of HBO’s most well-reviewed series of the last few years.
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