Language film club 1

Posted in: foreign languages

Watching a foreign language film is a fantastic way to improve your language skills and immerse yourself in a different cultural perspective. But with so many films to choose from, where do you start?

In the first of two blogs, our language teachers recommend a great movie for learners of their languages to watch. So grab your popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the film!

Arabic: Lemon Tree (Shajaret Leimoun)

‘Lemon Tree’ (Shajaret Leimoun) is a 2008 Israeli drama film directed by Eran Riklis. The film describes the legal efforts of a Palestinian widow to stop the Israeli Defence Minister, her next door neighbour, from destroying the lemon trees in her family farm. Refusing to bow down, she engages a lawyer to take her case to the Supreme Court, which attracts international attention. At the same time, she develops a human bond with the minister’s wife.

The film has achieved critical success and received nominations for several awards such as Best Actress and Best Screenwriter at the 21st European Film Awards.

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: Available on Netflix.

(Khalil Estaytieh)

Brazilian Portuguese: The Second Mother (Que horas ela volta?)

‘The Second Mother’ is a great movie that depicts the delicate maid/employer relationship in Brazilian society in a funny, yet thought-provoking way. The language is colloquial, and you can hear the difference between north and south 'sotaques' (regional accents).

The movie is also full of insights into many social issues such as the movement of 'nordestinos' (North Easterners) from their native states to the big cities like São Paulo, the interactions of two social classes living under the same roof, and the role of the mother figure that Brazilian maids play in many households across the country. Watch this movie in Portuguese with English subtitles so you can listen to the dialogues and different accents.

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: DVD from the University of Bath Library, Level 2, or online on Amazon Prime.

(Ana Bertolossi)

Japanese: In This Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に, Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni)

‘In This Corner of the World’ (この世界の片隅に, Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni) is a Japanese animated film directed by Sunao Katabuch set in the Second World War. The film is based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Fumiyo Kōno. It was released in 2016 and screened in over 65 countries.

The film explores the juxtaposition between the gritty theme of war and the beautifully and delicately hand-drawn animation.

The story is told from the perspective of an ordinary young woman, Suzu, and the viewer follows her life near Hiroshima in Japan. The characters have to be creative, resilient and supportive to survive the misery of the war and find some joy in shared experiences. However, the war deprives the characters of what they hold most dear.

The film was highly acclaimed and received many film awards for its visual aesthetics and plot.  Given war is a very real experience in some corners of the world, I do not want to forget about the sufferings of such people and pray for world peace.

Watch the trailer: Japanese, English

How to watch the film: DVD from the University of Bath Library, Level 2, or online on Amazon Prime.

(Satoko Suzui)

German: Look Who’s Back (Er ist wieder da)

Set in Berlin in 2014, ‘Er ist wieder da’ is an award-winning satirical black comedy, based on the hugely successful book of the same name by Timur Vermes.

Adolf Hitler is teleported in time to a park where his former wartime bunker once stood and becomes a media celebrity.

There is lots of Sacha Baron Cohen-esque unscripted dialogue which at times is excruciating to watch. The film is frequently very funny whilst at the same time making some serious comments about society.

Watch the trailer

(Moira Govan)

Chinese: The Farewell《别告诉她》

‘The Farewell’ is a comedy drama first released in America in 2019. A grandma in a Chinese American family is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Following Chinese cultural beliefs, the family decide not to let grandma know the truth. Meanwhile, all the extended family members are invited to visit grandma for the last time to say goodbye under the guise of a fake wedding.

However, Billi, who was brought up in New York, flying back from America to northern China, believes that it is grandma’s right to know her own situation. A series of cultural conflicts between east and west consequently takes place.

The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, was based on her own life story. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film.

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: Netflix

(Ying Gao)

English: Happy-Go-Lucky

Mike Leigh’s ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ from 2008 has often been described as a feel-good film. In many ways it is, but it goes a lot deeper than the average comedy drama.

Sally Hawkins plays Poppy, a determinedly cheerful 30-year-old primary school teacher from North London. Following a few weeks in Poppy’s life, we see her navigate dating, family relationships, friendships and challenges at work. But it’s the scenes with her driving instructor, played by Eddie Marsan, that will really stay with you.

This is a film that’s much more about characters than action. It’s also about happiness, but it never tries to offer simple answers. It doesn’t ignore the mundane aspects of daily life, the challenges of adulthood or the injustices of modern society.

As you might expect from a Mike Leigh film, it’s partly improvised and the dialogue is often naturalistic and fast-paced. It isn’t an easy option for second language listening practice, but for those at C1/C2 level looking for authentic London accents and a rich source of idioms, Happy-Go-Lucky is an excellent choice!

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: Online

(Alex Paramour)

Spanish: All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre)

‘All about my mother’ (Todo sobre mi madre) is a 1999 comedy-drama from Spain directed by Pedro Almodóvar. It’s recognised as one of his best films. The film focuses on Manuela, the single mother of a teenager who gets killed in a road accident. She is a nurse working on donor organ transplants and has to make a difficult decision about her son’s heart.

After that she leaves her job and is determined to track down the boy’s father to tell him about the dead son he never knew. What follows is a journey into complex issues such as AIDS, homosexuality and faith.

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: DVD from the University of Bath Library, Level 2 (there are 3 copies), or online on Hulu.

(Asun Solano)

French: Untouchable (Les Intouchables)

Inspired by a real-life story, ‘Untouchable’ (Les Intouchables) was released in 2011 and became one of the most successful French films ever made. It is funny, moving and highly entertaining.

Starring Omar Sy and François Cluzet, ‘Les Intouchables’ is the accidental collision between two worlds that would normally never meet.

Driss (Omar Sy) is a troublemaker with a big heart and a great sense of humour. He is penniless and unemployed but resourceful. Philippe (François Cluzet) is wealthy and successful but unhappy. After an accident leaves him paraplegic, his staff is desperate to employ the right person to care for him. What ensues is the unlikely friendship that develops between two men who live worlds apart.

Watch the trailer

How to watch the film: DVD available from the University of Bath Library, Level 2, or watch online on Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube.

(Anne-Catherine Mechler)

There are lots of ways to watch films in the language you’re learning, and you can often choose the type of subtitles you prefer. Many streaming platforms offer this. If you add closed captions in the foreign language, this will help you make connections between what you hear and what you see.

Film festivals or independent cinemas are also a great way to catch international films, for example the Bath Film Festival and The Little Theatre Cinema in Bath.

Posted in: foreign languages

Language film club 2


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