This is what we watch, this is who we are

Illustration by Natalie Ng

Having spent my break in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka, I felt truly blessed to have an actual television that worked. Away from ‘becoming one’ with the monkeys, I ended up spending a lot of time watching foreign films. From Bollywood movies to modern Spanish short films, it made me realize the numerous benefits foreign films can offer to an audience.


A cultural experience in language learning

Firstly, films provide the key expressions and sounds acoustics that are significant in in the everyday-day usage of a language. When watching a foreign film, do you ever think “Oh! That word is used so much” or “Wow, they speak so passionately”? If you’re learning another language, watching foreign films is a great way of assimilating these phrases and speech style into your own learning experience. I find learning languages at university helps to consistently enhance students’ grammatical practices, however lacks usage of the common expressions. This could be the difference between a student speaking eloquently and a student who can speak eloquently and be easily connected to a foreign society. Imagine going to Spain and being able to explain in Spanish the Franco dictatorship and its oppressions to society, but not being able to ask a local how much coffee is? Being able to communicate with locals, on top of knowing the culture, is an overall rewarding language speaking experience.


It opens up a world of imagination

There are many American films made by Hollywood that will remain iconic for years to come, but often same generic storyline repeats itself. Foreign films on the other hand provide unique tales, as the audience cannot predict the endings of films, as everything to begin with is new and surprising. For example, I watched the German film “Der Räuber” or “The Robber” which is based upon a marathon runner who also successfully robs banks as a hobby. BAM! This film not only encompasses the suspense of an awesome thriller, but also provides a story that differs from the generic style. Additionally, the remakes of foreign films into English films are disappointing: it is more appealing to an English speaking audience, but is it really better? Like a foreign language itself, converting everything into English eliminates the tradition, lust and originality of a film that we otherwise could have encountered.  Whether foreign films are wonderful or confronting, they delve into depths of imagination we infrequently see.

Highlights the social norms and behavior

One of the most important benefits for an audience is being able to learn the societal values that are integrated in a foreign community. For first-timers to a country without any prior cultural knowledge, these norms may seem interesting or even unusual at first. However by watching foreign films, the audience is illustrated how these ‘different’ norms are indeed normal in the particular society. For example, I’ve watched Japanese anime and film, which is also highly popular for comic fans in Western societies. I learnt important concepts before visiting Japan such as the concept of Senpai and Kohai, where those who are older or of a ‘higher’ role than yourself, must be greatly respected. This includes using formal language unlike casual styles, and even changing your behaviour. Foreign films assist in bridging this cultural knowledge gap of a foreign society, and to broaden the understanding of foreign societal norms for an audience.


Hopefully next time you’re at a film festival or movie night, these benefits will convince you that foreign films are a must-try!

Tags : Culturefilmwhat we watch

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