After “Roma” (2018) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, worldwide releases that premiered last year on the festival circuit and in their home countries are steadily flooding the U.S. market. Here are five that critics and audiences have branded must-sees.
“Everybody Knows” (2018), Spain/Iran
Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi has teamed up with some of the biggest names in Spanish cinema (including super-couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz) for the kidnapping thriller “Everybody Knows.” The film, which premiered at Cannes last spring and ran the festival gamut throughout the summer, finally arrived in the U.S. this November. Cruz portrays Spanish expat Laura, who ventures home to a picturesque village for the first time in a number of years to attend a wedding. In the midst of the celebration, however, her ebullient teenage daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), goes missing, and the subsequent search for her daughter tangles deeply with Laura’s past.
“Birds of Passage” (2018), Colombia
“Birds of Passage” was shortlisted as the Colombian entry for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, ultimately just missing out on a nomination. The film, jointly directed by Cristina Gallego and Oscar nominee Ciro Guerra — who actually got divorced during the film’s production — retells the boom and bust of an indigenous family from the 1960s into the ’70s in the earliest stages of the Colombian drug conflicts. The saga-like narrative Gallego and Guerra craft has garnered glowing comparisons to “The Godfather” series (1972, 1974, 1990), as the deeply traditional family depicted machinates between the immemorial past and the enticements of modernity, money and limitless power.
“Transit” (2018), Germany
The latest release from German director Christian Petzold, best-known for post-WWII psychodrama “Phoenix” (2014) and East Germany-set Cold War drama “Barbara” (2012), relocates its source material from the Second World War to today. Set in the present-day metropolis of Paris, “Transit” (2018), an adaptation of a 1944 novel of the same name by German Jewish refugee Anna Seghers, sees German soldiers swarming into the French capital. When Georg (Franz Rogowski) adopts the identity of a dead man and ventures to Marseille, he finds himself trapped and taken with the mysterious Maria (Paula Beer). “Transit” has won critical praise for its eerie melding of past horrors of war with uncomfortable contemporary political realities.
“Ash Is Purest White” (2018), China
Spanning 15 years in the relationship between Guo Bin (Liao Fan), a small-time cog in a local crime syndicate, and a woman, Qiao (Zhao Tao), who lands in prison trying to protect him, “Ash Is Purest White,” directed by Jia Zhangke, serves as a chronicle of the headlong journey of China into the throes of the digital age. Praise has been heaped upon lead actress Zhao Tao, whose character Qiao, after making a split-second decision to protect her lover, is slapped with a five-year prison sentence. Upon her release, she sets out to find him. Jia’s filmmaking has attracted accolades for its expansive style, and “Ash is Purest White” tracks the development of the world around its characters and their personal stories with equal attention.
“Climax” (2018), Belgium/France
French-Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé follows in the footsteps of “Suspiria” (2018) with the LSD-tinged dance-horror trip “Climax.” When a company of young French dancers gather in an abandoned school building late one night for a rehearsal, they begin having intensely lifelike and unsettling visions upon learning that their drinks have been laced with LSD. Noé lends his evocative visual style to “Climax,” taking viewers down the rabbit hole with a film that has been described as “deranged,” “profanely funny” and “fantasmagoric.”