Yesterday on It’s A Stampede!, I cast my eyes over a year of films, with an entire post dedicated to the major movie releases of 2021. The discussion looked at the highs and lows of the year in film, covering a large number of the movies that hit screens, both big and small, including all of the major blockbusters.
The discussion was designed to highlight many of the films you might have missed, point you in the direction of all the good stuff, and steer you away from the complete dross. However, my discussion largely focused on American or English-language movies, and didn’t open up the conversation to some of the other films that were released this year.
By the end of 2021 (which is just a couple of weeks away), I will have reviewed 150 new movies on this blog for this year alone. While the vast majority of these 150 movies are mainstream pictures from the US, over a quarter of the films are world cinema releases, including many foreign language features.
So, if I’m having a discussion about the movies of 2021, I really need to talk about these films too. And that is what this post is all about.
Thanks to streaming services and video-on-demand platforms, it is now even easier to access world cinema titles, with a multitude of movies made available with just the touch of a button. And due to the increasing availability of these films, their popularity has risen in recent years, with audiences starting to check out titles from overseas they previously might have ignored.
Netflix is a big champion of world cinema, and if you’re a subscriber to the service you will have noticed a lot of new foreign language movies popping up throughout 2021. Other platforms such as Amazon, Shudder, and Peccadillo Pictures etc, have also provided plenty of titles from around the world, meaning there was lots of new movies to choose from this year.
A number of movies made their way from France in 2021, including crime-thriller The Stronghold; sci-fi film Oxygen; horror movies The Swarm and Teddy; and the LGBTQ+ romantic drama Two of Us. My top picks out of this crop of movies were Oxygen, which was made available through Netflix, and Two of Us, which was a video-on-demand title.
With regard to Two of Us, the film told the story of a same-sex couple in their 70s, who found their relationship under threat when one of them suffered from illness. The movie looked at how life can change in a matter of days, and proved to be a refreshing slice of cinema.
Moving over to Germany now and Netflix brought a number of German-language movies to subscribers this year including the thriller Prey; the family drama Black Island; and the vampire-action movie Blood Red Sky. The service also delivered the politically-charged Je Suis Karl.
When summing up Je Suis Karl in my review back in September, I called the movie “engrossing” and “emotive” which “shines the spotlight on extremism and domestic terrorism”. I said: “I expect this film will get lost on Netflix, becoming a victim to the algorithm, so you may need to seek it out – but do seek this one out. Je Suis Karl is a film which offers a powerful narrative, with the ability to really get under the skin, and is a movie I highly recommend.”
Moving over to Brazil now for a trio of pictures including: Just Short of Perfect, Confessions of an Invisible Girl, and Skull. The first two were released on Netflix, while the third was made available through Amazon.
I can’t say I was a fan of the horror film Skull, but I certainly found much to enjoy with both Just Short of Perfect and Confessions of an Invisible Girl – both of which were fairly light and frothy features, which suited me perfectly.
I also found plenty to like with a trio of Spanish movies which were made available to stream on Netflix: Outlaws, Sounds Like Love, and Below Zero. The former was a crime drama, the latter a thriller, and sandwiched in between was a romantic comedy.
Sliding over to Poland now for two movies that came in via Netflix, including the ‘whodunnit?’ In for a Murder, and the crime drama Operation Hyacinth. In for a Murder was a bit of a misfire, so nothing worth mentioning there, but Operation Hyacinth wasn’t bad and offered a bit of grit.
And speaking of grit, a fair bit could be found in the Turkish movie, Grudge – a crime-thriller about a police officer who found himself at the centre of a murder investigation. During the course of the film, the officer tries to hide evidence that could link him to the crime, unaware that one member of his team already suspects his involvement.
In my review of Grudge, I noted that it felt more like a TV drama than a film, but it “delivers on its premise, and provides a satisfying conclusion.” I added: “Don’t expect a huge scale blockbuster, but if you are open to a more intimate tale about corruption then you will find something worth investing your time in.”
Other world cinema films that popped up this year included the Romanian drama The Father Who Moves Mountains; the Hindi horror Kriya; and the Thai films Ghost Lab and The Whole Truth. Meanwhile, Italy served up Yara and A Classic Horror Story; while Sweden offered JJ+E, Red Dot, and the docu-film The Most Beautiful Boy in the World.
And two gems could be found in the Norwegian black comedy The Trip, as well as the Danish black comedy Another Round. If you read my previous post about 2021’s movies, you’ll know that Another Round was amongst my top ten movies of the year, so it gets a ‘thumbs up’ from me, but The Trip was pretty good too.
Now when it comes to world cinema, while most people automatically think of foreign language pictures, there are plenty of movies from English-speaking countries too, such as the superb New Zealand horror-thriller, Coming Home in the Dark. This film landed on Netflix at the end of November, and brought with it a great deal of suspense.
While reviewing Coming Home in the Dark, I commented: “If you are looking for something a little sinister, something with a black heart, and something to hold your attention for around 90-minutes, then Coming Home in the Dark is a movie for you. The film sets out its intentions early doors, draws out its story at a good pace, and builds to a thought-provoking conclusion, which opens up a discussion about punishment and responsibility.”
Another great film came from Australia, in the shape of Sequin in a Blue Room – an LGBTQ+ coming of age drama, about a 16-year-old who gets in over his head while using dating apps. The film was released on video-on-demand platforms back in April and presented “a solid piece of queer cinema.”
And finally, moving closer to home now, for the release of a collection of British movies including Sweetheart, Surge, The Power and Kindred. Sweetheart and Kindred were my favourites out of this collection of titles, but arguably one of the best British films this year was Supernova – a touching account of a same-sex relationship dealing with the onset of dementia.
Supernova was a romantic drama, from writer/director Harry Macqueen. The film starred Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, and told the story of Sam and Tusker – two men in their 60s, who embark on an emotional road trip to the Lake District.
There have been a number of movies about dementia in recent years, including the horror film Relic, and the high-profile picture, The Father, so it’s easy to overlook Supernova. However, if you haven’t seen this one yet, be sure to make space for it, as it really is a poignant picture.
And that pretty much wraps up this year’s jaunt through world cinema releases. This is an area of cinema which does appear to be on the rise on digital platforms and streaming services (certainly on Netflix anyway), and I for one welcome it.
Different countries have a lot to offer and it is great to see something else being served up, to sit alongside the big budget movies that tend to come from Hollywood. World cinema is nothing new of course, but having instant access to it in the volume that we now do is certainly something to take note of.
I look forward to trying out and reviewing more world cinema releases in 2022, but for now I am thankful that I got to watch so many throughout this year.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about world cinema releases in 2021. Please feel free to click through the links to read the reviews for each title.
And for more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
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