2018 Golden Globes Nominees Panel - Best Foreign Film

In the post Golden Globes euphoria of the past week, the media masses have been in a whirl wind of dialogue and debate about the night’s big winners. Three Billboards, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Oprah’s speech have dominated headlines. However, the category with some of the most compelling films nominated seem to have seen the least amount of coverage. 

The day before the golden globes I was lucky enough to hear the directors of these five astounding films speak when I attended the Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominees Panel at the beautiful Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. On the stage sat Angelina Jolie (First They Killed My Father), Sebastian Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), Ruben Östlund (The Square), Andrey Zvyagintsev (Loveless), and Fatih Akin (In the Fade) who would go on to become the category’s winner. 

The dominant theme of the panel discussion was the power of foreign cinema, not only to transcend cultures and borders, but to also act as an educational tool for themselves and for people around the globe. In a time when an ever increasing number of western countries seem to be closing themselves off, the work of filmmakers like these is becoming paramount to the evolution of human beings in becoming citizens of the world. 

Moderator Mike Goodridge began by mirroring The Square and inquiring as to the power of art and what art can achieve? Ruben Östlund expressed how he believed that “moving images… [are] one of the strongest expressions when changing human behavior” both in the cinema and on the internet. The main difference is that ‘in the cinemas, we are looking at things together and there is something about processing something that we have seen together.” Fatih Akin explained, “When I was a kid, films were teaching me…certain films I [saw] as a teenager made me the person I have become.” He went on to say that he now uses films in the education of his children. Specifically his twelve year old son who is starting to ask questions about WWII. To help answer these questions Fatih showed him Die Brücke (1959), an influential anti-war film, and made him take notes. The director’s own film In the Fade explores the topics of terrorism and immigration in modern day Germany. 

Angelina Jolie said that she also uses cinema as a way to educate her children. Even though she is an American, Jolie directed the Cambodian film, First They Killed My Father, and it was her own film that was used as a tool for exploring and educating her Vietnamese and Cambodian son about his heritage and what likely happened to his birth parents. Sebastian Lelio piggy-backed on this concept of using one’s own films as a learning experience and expressed that his motivation for making A Fantastic Woman was to rid himself of his own ignorance about the transgender community. It was only Andrey Zvyaginstsev who was the stand-alone on the subject saying “it’s hard to set an aim at educating your viewers” and he believed his job as a filmmaker was to “express human nature as though in a mirror, and it is up to the audience member as an individual to learn something from it.” 

As an American, when I talk to my fellow countrymen and women about film, I get the impression that too few of us really take the time to explore foreign cinema. People seem so caught up in the box office blockbusters because of the hype and the current isolating state of our own culture. I’ve even heard some Americans claim to not like foreign films because they do not like to read subtitles. To me this is a tragedy. As far as information availability is concerned, we are living in a golden age. The art and literature from around the globe is at our fingertips and yet too many of us choose not to engage. It is almost like the more access we have to information the lazier we get. The more closed off we become. Angelina Jolie said “Here we are at a time where we know more than we have ever in history and we seem to be doing less… we seem to be focused on people becoming very popular by talking about what they can do for themselves…” We need to ask ourselves if these are the types of citizens of the world we wish to be. I recommend you to check out the films from these five filmmakers. Anglina Jolie’s film First They Killed My Father is streaming on Netflix. The rest are in various cinemas nationwide. You can also find video of the full panel discussion below.

 -Dawn Stronski