Why it’s time for international films

The barriers of subtitles are insurmountable for some people, but a change of habit in what we see at the cinema can allow us to explore more options. Foreign films still struggle to reach English-speaking audiences, but gradually films were introduced and the perspective of audiences began to change.

Parasite made history in 2020 by winning Best Picture at the Oscars, an award never before received by a foreign film. In addition to the awards received by Parasitethe high box office results show that a new trend may be emerging, in which non-English speaking productions are better received.

Rome is another movie that in 2019 managed to move a large audience in Hollywood and got a lot of positive reviews. Alfonso Cuaron’s Mexican film was also nominated and received many important film industry awards. In 2020, a film highly cited by critics and in the charts is Dolor and Gloriawhich earned Antonio Banderas an Oscar nomination for his impressive and solid performance.

Probably, despite these improvements, the box office figures of foreign films are still not in a very good position, but changes are taking place and this is important. Streaming services also help, offering a wide variety of productions from around the world. In this way, the public can begin to familiarize themselves with non-English speaking works.

Audiences have many preconceptions about movies with subtitles, such as expecting lower quality or worrying about not understanding the plot if they get lost in reading. These barriers can be broken down when the audience realizes that they have more options to choose from and understanding a movie from another country isn’t really that hard.

English-speaking audiences seem more comfortable with the idea of ​​watching films with subtitles and, perhaps for this reason, some production companies have chosen to introduce dialogue in other languages ​​to certain stories. , when it adds value to the plot. These changes also allow audiences not attached to less popular films to get used to the idea of ​​not hearing all the dialogue in English.

International films also open a debate on whether subtitles or dubbing are better. In Hispanic countries, for example, there are both options for films that arrive in English, French or another language. Cinema in Spain favors dubbing and most Latin American countries prefer subtitles, although there are exceptions for children’s films which are shown almost exclusively in the local language.

National television in each country tends towards dubbing and cable channels offer options to adjust audio or subtitles. I grew up in a country with little national film production and a lot of foreign films, especially from Hollywood, and it is quite normal that we consume subtitled products, even if dubbing is on the rise.

Being in contact with subtitles from an early age allowed me to open my options to other markets, without discriminating by the language in which it was done. Thus, I was able to enjoy films from all over the world, although they are usually not shown in commercial cinemas, but in university or independent cinemas.

Dubbing, while it may be easier when watching a movie, can also cause the content of the production to be lost. Voice acting can be very good, but the main intent of the work often cannot be achieved by someone who is not experiencing the events at the time of filming. This means the film will be perceived differently and in many cases viewers will subtract points for quality.

Getting emotionally involved in a production depends on several factors and one of them is the sound, which is why many moviegoers advocate subtitles over dubbing. In addition, the viewer can become even more involved by having to read, pay attention to body language and the action of what is happening.

The trends also indicate foreign filmmakers who want to bring different proposals to Hollywood, as is the case of Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, Bong Joon-ho and Pedro Almodóvar, among others. These directors, who have grown up between the culture of their country and that which comes from English-language films, can bring a broader global perspective, which manages to be more inclusive.

Exploring new options and stories on the big screen can free us from the labels we place on everything. Opening up to new territories through cinema allows us to explore different cultures. Knowing more about the world avoids the need to classify and helps expand the boundaries of our mind to better accept the differences around us.

Image credit: Image by Andreas Glöckner

Darcy J. Skinner