We know summer is finally upon us, and most of you are ready to head for the sunlight. But for those couch potatoes with UV allergies, we bring you a new series on films recently released on Netflix that should keep you occupied indoors—and pasty.
Last Train Home (Gui Tu Jie Che) (2009)
Documentarian Lixin Fan follows a couple who have left their rural village to work in the city, leaving their high school-aged daughter and elementary school-aged son to be raised by their grandmother. A sad look at how China’s rapid march to catch up with the rest of the world has taken its toll on its most valuable resource: the family.
Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika) (2001)
This Academy Award winning film follows a young German Jewish family who escapes from the Nazi regime at the onset of World War II to live and work on a farm in rural Kenya. Told through the eyes of the daughter, Caroline Link’s film—based on the best-selling German novel by Stefanie Zweig—is both vivid and detailed, more intent on meticulously painting the lives of her characters than entertaining. You won’t walk away unmoved.
The Man from London (A Londoni Férfi) (2007)
Filmmaker Béla Tarr’s films tend to be a test of endurance for audiences—his magnum opus, Satantango, lasts over seven hours—but his spiritual malaise and captivating mise en scène grabs hold of you and never lets go until its final credits. A rail worker witnesses a murder and rashly runs off with the victim’s briefcase full of money. Soon people come looking for the briefcase, but for the man the choice never had anything to do with wealth but the rash decision to escape the monotony of his life. Adapted from Georges Simenon’s novel, Tarr does film noir his way and it’s all the better because of it.
Mother and Child (2009)
Rodrigo Garciaís criminally overlooked drama centers around three women: a 50-year-old mother, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago, and an African American woman looking to adopt a child of her own. Continuing his adoration for women (see Nine Lives) Garcia draws stunning performances from Naomi Watts, Annette Benning, and Kerry Washington—reason enough to watch this engaging film.
Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) (2002)
Abderrahmane Sissako is one of the few Sub-Saharan African filmmakers to gain international recognition, and this Cannes Film Festival official selection is a great example of why. A fictionalized version of Sissako’s exile and brief return to his home in Mauritania, the film captures the poetry of coming and going, staying or leaving, life and death, and everything in between. His films aren&8217;t full of plot mechanics or crass conflicts, but it’s within the handful of glimpses into everyday activity—an electrician struggling to illuminate a perfectly good light bulb, a mother teaching her daughter to sing and play the kora—that the audience is allowed to bear witness to the memories, experience, and history of the effects of colonialism in contemporary Africa brought to the present. Check out Sissako’s Bamako as well, also available to stream.
Love him or hate him, no one quite makes films like Ryuichi Hiroki (The Barber’s Sadness, Tokyo Trash Baby, and I am a S+M Writer, just to name a few). Never one to shy away from titillating subject matters, with Vibrator—which has nothing to do with adult toys—Hiroki gets sensitive. An eccentric girl meets a truck driver at a gas station and decides to travel with him. What might seem trite is in fact an emotional redemption tale of two damaged souls helping to heal one another. The film could have benefited from higher production values, but the two performances at the core of the film couldn’t be better.
Bread and Tulips (Pane E Tulipani) (2000)
No one does love stories like the Italians, especially when set in Venice. Silvio Soldini’s film isn’t extraordinary, but it’s one that’ll leave a smile on your face. An unhappy housewife leaves her philandering husband and hitchhikes to Venice to start a new life for herself. The typical rom-com clichés apply—she meets someone and it’s a happy ending—but it’s the journey there that makes this film worthwhile.
Copyright 2011 Justin Alvarez
Justin Alvarez is an editorial assistant at Guernica. Read more about him here.