International films not available in the United States
Every year, acclaimed new films premiere at Cannes or Sundance, but without proper distribution, they can easily fade from public memory. Here are six films that deserve to be accessible in the United States, so that a wider audience can appreciate their brilliance.
The famous bear invasion of Sicily (2019)
This wonderful animated fantasy by Lorenzo Mattotti, based on the beloved Italian children’s book by Dino Buzzati, tells the story of the bear king who invades the land of men when his young son is kidnapped. Brought to life in stunning 2D animation, this magical fable debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim and played at several film festivals across the United States, but has yet to have a commercial theatrical release. The only physical release was in Italy (without English subtitles) and Canada (with English subtitles).
Many films about ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland were made after the violence ended, but this 1981 drama was shot right in the thick of history, telling the story of a young woman who moved to London to escape the endless bloodshed. and political extremism. Director Pat Murphy went on to direct the James Joyce and Nora Barnacle biopic nora, but for decades his first film was unavailable, until the BFI released a superb Blu Ray last year. We can only hope someone like Kino Lorber brings it to the US There’s still no physical release for Murphy’s second film Anne Devlin from 1984.
Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire (2018)
The girl with the dragon tattoo and its sequels are a global phenomenon, but sadly author Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack before the books were even published. This documentary by Henrik Georgsson looks at Larsson’s life, in particular his career before writing novels, as a journalist investigating neo-Nazi groups in Sweden. You’d think Larsson’s fame would make a documentary about him hugely popular, but after premiering at Sundance, the film is still not available in the US (You can get an imported DVD from Madman Films in Australia.)
A dark fantasy musical about mermaids working in a Polish nightclub. Bold, brilliant, and quickly found its way into the Criterion collection. Smoczynska’s second film Fugue is a much more low-key drama about a woman who loses her memory and struggles to reconnect with her husband and son. It’s a fascinating character study. Fugue did not obtain a disc release by the Criterion Collection. It played briefly on the MUBI streaming service, but if you want to own it, you’ll have to pay for a Polish DVD.
One of the best independent British films of recent years, Bait is a highly drawn drama about a small fishing town where the residents are driven out by new wealthy neighbors. Shot on 16mm black and white film, with the dialogue dubbed in post-production, it looks eerily fresh, with terrific naturalistic performances. Although it was nominated for the BAFTAs, it never had an American release. There’s a UK BFI BluRay with some special features. Hopefully Mark Jenkin’s next film will get a wider release.
window horses (2016)
Indie animation, like Bill Plympton or Don Hertzfeldt, is so rare that it should always be cherished and championed. Every frame in Anne Marie Fleming’s animated feature about a Chinese-Iranian Canadian girl who travels to Iran for the first time for a poetry contest is hand-crafted, making for a moving story even stronger, and the great Canadian actress Sandra Oh is excellent in the lead. It’s a curious example, since you can actually rent it on Amazon. However, there are no physical press releases, even in Canada. While I’m glad it’s available to stream, unlike the other movies on this list, the fact that it could disappear from Amazon any day, leaving no other way to watch the movie, bothers me.