Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Foreign Language Films Are Dead; Long Live Foreign Language Films

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik August 25, 2011 at 1:39AM

Foreign Language Films Are Dead; Long Live Foreign Language Films
2

Foreign-language films have always been the bastard step-children of the art-house market.

Despite what everyone likes to say about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "Pan's Labyrinth" or "Amelie," American audiences--even sophisticated ones--appear to be insular, provincial and possibly xenophobic. "The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo" may have been a sizable box office hit last year, but it still ranks as the 24th most successful subtitled movie of all time, and it had a bestselling book and lots of violence behind it.

Considered in total, it seems movies from foreign countries are welcomed with less and less vigor. This year, we haven't had a foreign breakout since first quarter releases, "Biutiful" and "Of Gods and Men," and we'll have to wait until Almodovar in the fall to bring any significant number of U.S. audiences again beyond their own navels.

Rejected by television buyers and viewers (those pesky subtitles), the films are more often than not box-office losers, or the most modest of winners for film distributors, who must either spend next to nothing to release them (Strand) or distribute so many in bulk (Sony Classics, IFC Films) to make them worthwhile.

But the news in recent days that Focus Features had launched its own VOD label, Focus World, and Fox International Prods would be releasing a few of its titles in North America, namely, a favorite of mine from Cannes, Gerardo Naranjo's "Miss Bala" (pictured), made me think that all is not lost for foreign-language films in the U.S.A. Or maybe not.

According to indieWIRE, Focus World plans to release somewhere between eight to 15 VOD premiere titles a year, with the goal being one per month. It's throwing these films into the wilds of the home entertainment market, without much backing, but I guess it's better than nothing. Or is it? As Dana Harris noted in the indieWIRE story, the unit is a way for the company to pick up foreign films that they love, but for which they can't justify a theatrical release. But in doing so, are they taking films away from a smaller distributor that might have actually put the film in theaters and given them a higher profile among critics and thereby audiences?

A Focus exec told indieWIRE that "it was thrilling for me to make an offer on ‘Resurrect Dead,'” but what kind of offer, and what kind of commitment?

Likewise, according to Gregg Goldstein in Variety, Fox Intl. Prods will give some of its slate a specialty theatrical push in the U.S., with "Miss Bala" getting a limited domestic run through 20th Century Fox on Oct. 14.

I interviewed Naranjo in Cannes for the WSJ.com (Miss Bala Subverts Criminal Genre), and I'm happy to know that North American audiences will get a chance to see the film, but I'm not sure what marketing execs at big Fox will know what to do with the film--why not give it to Fox Searchlight? Indie veteran David Dinerstein (Paramount Classics) is reportedly consulting with Fox to strategize on the release, so perhaps it's got a shot. But I'm not holding my breath.

This article is related to: Foreign Film

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Tony: I saw this with my girlfriend. She was completely taken in by it. This movie is no better than a soap opera. Absolute drivel, pandering to…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 1:03am

By Joe Britz: While rape is a horrible crime, it doesn't mean we simply toss Blackstone out the window. The foundation of our justice system is innocent…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 12:31am

By Amelia: It reminds me of the Dark Ages, where people would accuse a woman of being a Witch and everybody would simply believe the accusation because…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 3:25pm

By Joe: There is no rape culture. Rape is a sickening and illegal act but apparently there are some who want to return to the old fashioned lynch mob…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 1:31pm

By roosevelto: I think that this movie is many things, one of those is political. Even if we suppose that it wasn't Afflec's intention, when has become…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 5:08pm

By roosevelto: I watched the movie with the most naive eyes possible. I said to myself, don't care about facts, don't care about propaganda, don't care abou…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 4:53pm

By Anthony Kaufman: "The Look of Silence" will definitely be on next year's list! It hasn't opened in the U.S. yet.

The Top 12 Documentaries of 2014

Jan 3rd, 2015 1:09pm