Not only are they good to watch, they’ll also help your language skills…and if your local DVD shop doesn’t stock them, they are all available to buy or pre-order on Amazon.
1. Salt of Life (Italy)
Despite being written by Gianni Di Gregorio, who co-wrote the acclaimed yet very violent ‘Gomorrah’, this Italian comedy (Gianni e le donne in Italian) is sweet, gentle and very easy to watch. It proved an international hit when launched, and follows the story of Gianni (played by Di Gregorio), a sixty year old man who although retired, dutifully cares for a demanding assortment of female relatives. When his friend brags about having a young lover, Gianni begins a doomed attempt to find an affair of his own…
The film is a follow-up to Mid-August Lunch (2009).
2. The Skin I Live In (Spain)
You don’t need a profound knowledge of Almódovar’s films to know that his work is extreme, fantastical and controversial, and – a tale of surgical obsession- ‘The Skin I live In’ is no exception. There is no denying, however, that it is sleek, stylized and unmistakably his. Starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, the film received critical acclaim but is certainly not light-hearted viewing!
3. Tomboy (France)
Tomboy is a coming-of- age story of a young girl called Laure who moves to a new area with her parents and little sister, and struggles to make friends – that is, until local girl Lisa mistakes Laure to be a boy. A happy summer is spent in the company of her new acquaintances, but complications soon arise…
4. In a Better World (Denmark)
In a Better World is a Danish drama film directed by Susanne Bier and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen. Its original Danish title is Hævnen, which means “The Revenge”, and in 2011 it was awarded the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film. The story plays out in African refugee camps, where the main character Anton spends time as a doctor, and back in his idyllic Danish hometown where his son is suffering under the tyranny of a vicious school bully. It’s a film that explores both the complexity of human emotions and the issue of male responsibility, and what it means to stand up for yourself and others.
5. Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)
“Outside the Law” is Rachid Bouchareb’s story of three brothers who lose their family farm in French-occupied Algeria and end up at the helm of the underground Algerian independence movement in Paris. The film takes place principally in the shanty towns and red light district of 1950s Paris and during the two hours the viewer discovers each of the three brothers’ reasons for taking on the cause. Hors la Loi is both a gripping, fast-paced thriller and a fascinating film that also offers a great insight into the history of the Algerian independence movement.
6. Sarah’s Key (France)
In 2009, an American journalist named Julia (played by Kristin Scott-Thomas) is commissioned to write a story on the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up, which took place in Paris in 1942 and saw thousands of Jews deported. During her investigations Julia learns that the apartment she and her husband Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants, a family with a four year old son and a ten year old daughter named Sarah.
7. Miss Bala (Mexico)
Miss Bala is a 2011 Mexican drama film written and directed by Gerardo Naranjo. The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and has been selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2012.
It follows the story of 23-year-old Laura, played by model-turned-actress Stephanie Sigman, who dreams of becoming a beauty queen and escaping her humble life in the Mexican border city of Baja. When Laura inadvertently becomes a witness to a crime, she becomes caught up in the terrifying world of Mexican gang violence.
8. If Not Us, Who (Wer wenn nicht wir) (Germany)
‘Wer wenn nicht wir’ is a German film directed by Andres Veiel and starring August Diehl. The film premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Bear.
Set mainly in the early 60s, the film is based on the true story of university students Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin, who are embroiled in a passionate but tempestuous relationship. Their discontent with the conformist world that they live in inspires them to join forces with leftist writers and political activists in Berlin, and they soon become part of the spreading global uprising, which has far-reaching results for both…
9. A Separation (Iran)
Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, A Separation is a powerful drama that explores the tensions at the heart of modern Iranian society.
It begins with a married middle-class couple, Simin and Nader, who are at odds over their future – she wants to leave the country with their daughter Termeh and he wants to stay so that he can care for his father who has Alzheimer’s. Eventually, they decide to separate and Simin moves out of the apartment that they share. Nader hires Razieh to look after his father, but her life is not without complication either – to start with, she is pregnant, and on top of that, she has a hot-headed husband who has not granted her permission to work.
One fateful day, something happens to rock both of their worlds, and soon, Nader finds himself entangled in a web of lies.
10. Romantics Anonymous (France)
With his beloved chocolate business struggling, timid owner Jean-René decides to enlist some help in the form of talented chocolatiere Angélique. She is equally as timid as him, but as the two get to know each other and share their love of chocolate, romances ensues. The film is a gentle comedy that stars Benoît Poelvoorde (Coco Before Chanel) as Jean-René and Isabelle Carré as Angelique.