Foreign films: Try ‘em, you might like ’em

April 14, 2019

For Brian Lind, the attraction of foreign movies is rather elemental: “I just love good films,” he said.

Lind, who has been a volunteer with the Rochester International Film Group since 2003, not only works on and attends the Rochester International Film Festival each year, he also has a region-free DVD player so that he can watch foreign film DVDs he orders online from Europe.

“They bring you to places that you can’t always visit,” he said of foreign films. “A lot of different perspectives, different voices, different characters.”

Ask 10 foreign-film fans what they like about the movies, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. The films are often beautifully made, don’t always have easy answers to the questions they pose, show people like us in unfamiliar settings, challenge us to step outside of our comfort zones, tend to be more understated than Hollywood hits, and open a window on cultures around the world.

“I just think a spirit of adventure is fulfilled when you go to an international film festival,” said Jan Behrens, a volunteer with the film group. “It’s part of being a human being to see what the rest of the world is doing.”

Some people though, are reluctant to try a foreign film for any number of reasons, subtitles being one of them.

Of course, not all foreign films have subtitles. Movies from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom, for example, would normally be in English.

As for those movies with subtitles, it’s surprising how quickly they disappear from a viewer’s consciousness. “Once you get into the movies about five or 10 minutes, you don’t even realize you’re reading,” Lind said.

In other cases, subject matter might be unfamiliar enough to be difficult to grasp.

If that’s your particular worry, Lind said, look for a film from, for example, France, Germany or Poland. “A lot of European films tend to be period pieces,” he said. Their familiar historical settings might ease your way into a different culture.

Or, Lind said, “Come to one of the comedies, or family dramas.”

So, if you try the film festival, and like what you see, where can you find more international movies?

• The Rochester Public Library has a large collection of international films on DVD available for checkout. The collection includes hundreds of films from France, Israel, Iran, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Cuba, Argentina, Romania, Russia, Mexico — from literally every film-producing country in the world. The collection is on the first floor of the library and is open for browsing.

• In addition, the library hosts a monthly iFilm series at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. It’s usually a double-feature, with a short film followed by a full-length movie. Again, these films come from around the world. An added bonus: free popcorn.

Alliance Francais, which promotes French language and culture in Rochester, hosts French film screenings every other month at the library, usually at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday. The upcoming schedule is at: afmsp.org/rochester/rochester-events/.

• The Grey Duck micro-cinema in Northwest Rochester is scheduled to open in May. Tentatively, the lineup will include classic, independent and international films, according to early reports.