Last year, Parasite became the first South-Korean film to be nominated at the Oscars. It also became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture, taking home four Academy Awards in total. In contrast, this year the Golden Globes brought some controversy surrounding the exclusion of Korean-American film Minari. Undoubtedly, international cinema in predominantly English speaking countries has increased in popularity in recent years.
It is a widely known fact that those who speak English as their first or only language are not incredibly susceptible to consuming entertainment produced by non-English speaking nations. With global music artists like BTS bringing Kpop to an international stage, and the 2017 hit ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee exploding onto international music charts, we English speakers are finally entering into a new era of entertainment consumerism.
One of my housemates is Taiwanese. Through our time together at university, she and some of my other friends have introduced me to a diverse array of international cinema. From the cliché rom-coms of K-Dramas like Descendants of the Sun, to the edgy Taiwanese film, Your Name Engraved Herein, I have come to enjoy a far wider array of films and shows that I barely knew to be available to me.
These films are far from limited to East Asia. Bollywood has long been popular throughout the world, and with an incredible range of films on Netflix, this is a world just waiting to be explored. Additionally, Nigerian cinema (or Nollywood) are one of the largest film industries in the world, with films available on Netflix such as the hilarious, The Wedding Party, or the Netflix Original, Lionheart. Moreover, if you find reading subtitles difficult, these films are frequently blended in a mixture of languages, including English, for an easier understanding.
The inclusion of non-English language films on streaming sites like Netflix, allows people to immerse themselves in a new culture, and hear stories they may not have discovered otherwise. At a time such as this, where we can’t travel and physically immerse ourselves in these cultures, non-English language and international cinema allows us to continue exploring these different lives and understand more about countries and cultures that are not our own.
The creation alone of films like Minari typify this greater interest in international cinema in the west: produced and created in America, yet interweaving multiple languages, rich with South Korean and Korean-American actors, and written and directed by a Korean-American. This merging of cinema should be welcomed. Films should be explored regardless of where they were created. With multicultural narratives now being produced in western countries, the importance of diversity in culture and language on screen is becoming more widely understood and appreciated with English-speakers. The popularity of international cinema has unleashed a new realm of entertainment, with films finally exploring stories of multiple cultures within one narrative.