(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
The world seems to feel like it’s on fire right now (and some parts of it are), but why not turn to foreign films and television to remind you of how dire things really are? No, it’s not all doom and gloom in this week’s Pop Culture Imports, but some of the best foreign movies and TV streaming now are so successful because of how powerful and timely they are. The first of which is HBO’s Israeli limited series Our Boys, which is based on the true events which led to the outbreak of war in Gaza. On the somewhat lighter side — but no less relevant — is the recent French comedy Non-Fiction in which director Oliver Assayas tears down our current digital landscape. Rounding out this week’s column is a tender Indian romance film from Amazon Studios, a haunting Italian crime drama, and a wacky Netflix fantasy anime series.
Let’s fire up those subtitles and get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
Our Boys – HBO
Genre: Limited drama series
Creator: Hagai Levi, Joseph Cedar, Tawfik Abu-Wael
Cast: Shlomi Elkabetz, Jony Arbid, Adam Gabay, Ruba Blal Asfour, Jacob Cohen.
HBO delivers an unflinching but undeniably compassionate portrait of the true events that led to the outbreak of the war in Gaza in Our Boys. Created by a team of Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers and writers, Our Boys is a difficult but essential 10-hour journey that manages to be even-handed in its portrayal of one of the most divisive modern-day conflicts. Picking up shortly after the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers, who are soon found to be killed by Hamas militants, Our Boys unpacks its dense narrative by way of an true crime investigation, unraveling the layers of political intricacies by focusing on the human consequence. In episode 1, we’re introduced to 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who by the second episode is dead in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem in apparent response to the horrific killings. The series follows a terrorism agent and his team at the Jewish Division of Shin Bet as they investigate Mohammad’s murder, all the while tensions boil between the two disparate communities.
Watch This If You Like: When They See Us, Foxtrot, Chernobyl, getting upset.
Non-Fiction – Hulu
Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi, Christa Théret, Pascal Greggory.
The cinematic equivalent of hanging out with some very French actors and writers, Non-Fiction is not Olivier Assayas‘ first comedy, but it’s certainly his most talk-y. The director reunites with his frequent collaborator Juliette Binoche, who plays a version of herself in this piece of “auto-fiction” that occasionally feels like Assayas’ excuse to rail against the rapidly changing digital landscape. Binoche is an actress married to a book editor, who has been having an affair with a prominent author under contract with her husband. Meanwhile her husband Alain (Guillaume Canet) has embarked on an affair of his own with a young coworker tasked with adapting the publishing house to the digital age. But the tangle of affairs and romantic dabblings are almost secondary to the long-winded conversations the characters have about the state of digital media and the evils of “blogs.” As someone who writes for such a blog, I felt very personally attacked, but amused by Assayas’ irritable and reluctantly optimistic views of the changing state of art, criticism, and everything in between. Non-Fiction is a very self-reflective, and yes, self-indulgent movie, but at least it’s two hours spent with very interesting French artistes.
Watch This If You Like: My Dinner With Andre, Sideways, drinking red wine and pretending you’re fancy.
Photograph – Amazon
Genre: Romantic drama
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra.
Based on its logline — a struggling street photographer asking a shy stranger to pose as his fiancee in order to appease his grandmother — you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Photograph was a silly Bollywood romantic-comedy. But Ritesh Batra‘s tender and languid romantic drama approaches this unusual arrangement through a sociocultural lens that elevates it from its somewhat silly premise. Nawazuddin Siddiqui stars as a working-class street photographer whose random encounter with a shy student (Sanya Malohtra) kicks off the strange arrangement. But rather than the expected hijinks that would ensue from the cliched fake relationship, the pair spend quite a while developing their timid, gentle relationship that barely progresses beyond a long, lingering glance. It’s a beautifully shot and artfully composed story of two misfits who find each other, and are forever changed by the experience.
Watch This If You Like: Once, Columbus, Lost in Translation, missed connections.
Cannon Busters — Netflix
Genre: Fantasy-action anime series
Creator: LeSean Thomas
Cast: Kenn Michael, Kamali Minter, Stephanie Sheh.
Cannon Busters has an abnormal road to the small screen. The latest Netflix anime series began as a comic book created by American writer LeSean Thomas, who only published three issues before the series stopped. A failed Kickstarter campaign and a pilot later, the series was picked up by Netflix. And as odd as Cannon Busters‘ journey was, the finished product may be even stranger. Set in a sci-fi western world, the story follows a mysterious bounty hunter called Philly the Kid, who can resurrect himself after dying. But upon being chased by killers determined to collect the prize on his head, he finds himself roped into a quest to reunite a strangely friendly android with the prince of her homeland. It’s a pretty standard action-fantasy storyline, but what makes Cannon Busters so inventive is in how truly uninventive it is. Cannon Busters is clearly created by people who grew up on anime and want to throw in as many homages and references to their favorite shows as possible. Take the fantastical western-steampunk world of Gearbolt for example: a melting pot of mystical creatures, humans, robots that recalls the visual styles of everything from Cowboy Bebop, to Trigun, to the wacky anachronisms and satirical edge of Gintama. It’s horribly derivative but blatantly proud of it, and a heckuva a lot of fun.
Watch This If You Like: Gintama, Avatar: The Last Airbender, just biding your time until the Cowboy Bebop live-action movie.
Dogman – Hulu
Genre: Crime drama
Director: Matteo Garrone
Cast: Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce.
Catharsis is nowhere in sight in the grim and apoplectic Dogman, an Italian crime drama about a mild-mannered man who, according to the various synopses floating around the internet “reaches his breaking point.” But this isn’t the triumphant revenge story you’re promised, instead director Matteo Garrone delivers a vexing character study of a man on the edge of innocence and malice, who isn’t quite driven to his bad deeds as much as he stumbles into them. Marcello Fonte gives a tour-de-force performance as Marcello, a dog groomer known around his small town as Dogman because of his small business’ name. Driven to desperation to give his daughter a luxurious vacation she deserves, Marcello deals cocaine to people in town, including to the local petty criminal, Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), who terrorizes the neighborhood and relentlessly bullies Marcello. The low stakes and bad choices give way to devastating consequences in Dogman, a desolate psychological parable that haunts you long after the credits roll.
Watch This If You Like: Straw Dogs, La Haine, good dogs.
The post Pop Culture Imports: HBO’s Powerful Israeli Series ‘Our Boys,’ An Olivier Assayas Comedy, A Wacky Netflix Anime, And More appeared first on /Film.