The other day, I was on the train with my office's intern, on our way to an off-site job we had to do. In between stops, she asked me if I'm a big foreign film buff. I answered truthfully, "I don't seek them out any more than any other kind of film, and I have to be in a certain mood to watch them."
I feel like there's a certain preconception about cinephiles, which, as writers, we obviously are: people who are very interested in movies inherently love foreign films. Being an avid foreign film watcher requires a love of the cinema that the average movie-goer is not apt to have. I'm not sure how much I agree with these sentiments. Chances are, I've seen more international pictures than many of my friends outside our League have seen. Nonetheless, I am not one to run to the Angelika or Sunshine just because there's a new Bolivian film that's only running for a week. Zombie is a big fan of non-domestic movies, and is much more likely to make such a trek than I am.
I think the thing about foreign films with regard to general audiences is the "negative stigma" they come with: production quality can be lower, there are no recognizable faces, they're often much more dramatic and less action-packed, and you have to read them. This last part, the reading, is the biggest obstacle foreign films have to overcome. I'll admit it, I'm much more prone to put on an English language film at the end of a long day or week at the office, because I'm generally just too tired to read the screen for two hours. I want my entertainment to be as easily accessible and mindless as possible on a Friday night. I don't want to have to work for it.
Well, last night I worked for it and damn was I happy I did.
MONGOL, Kazakhstan's official submission to the Foreign Language Film category in last year's Academy Awards, is about the early life of Genghis Khan and his rise as one of Mongolia's greatest warriors. An epic on the scale of Braveheart and Gladiator - both of which I thought about while watching this movie - Mongol was produced by Kazakh, Russian, Chinese, and German companies, to name a few. It is the first part in the "Mongol Trilogy" by Sergei Bodrov and is the uber Foreign Film. I fully believe that most any mainstream American audience would enjoy Mongol. It has amazing battle scenes, a thoroughly engaging and deep story (indeed, its 2 hour, 5 minute run time flew by), and is one of the most beautiful and vibrantly colored films I have seen in a long time.
I fully recommend this film. If you haven't seen it, Netflix it, rent it, see if any art-houses are still playing it. Onyx recently generated a very healthy discussion on paying $12 for a two hour movie-going experience. I had not been very aware of Mongol when it was in theaters. I missed the marketing, or rather, it missed me. But I would have walked out of the theater quite pleased with my decision to spend a dozen bucks on this film. I might have gone in reluctantly, what for all the reading ahead of me, but I would have known I'd made a great gamble in seeing Mongol on the big screen.