A One Way Street: Foreign Films in America
American movies dominate box offices around the world. Is it because these films are better than those produced by other nations? Hardly. It falls in tune with the dominant role our entertainment culture takes in other fields (music, television, etc.). It is not as if the masses of the USA don’t enjoy foreign made films, such as the Harry Potter & James Bond series, Shakespeare in Love, The Third Man, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary (noticing a Hugh Grant pattern here?), Porky’s, and Crocodile Dundee. All of these films grossed at least 100 million USD (adjusted for inflation). The only problem, is these are all English language films and many have ties to Hollywood production companies.
It seems as if there is some sort of block in our country about foreign language films. Only one has ever cracked the 100 million dollar mark in the US (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and few others have achieved great success (Life is Beautiful, Hero, Pan’s Labyrinth, Amelie). However, many great films which would roll in the big bucks go unwatched because of the language barrier which causes Hollywood to assume the general public won’t go see a foreign language film.
Of course many of the biggest blockbusters are action-packed, expensive productions. You see very few foreign language films going that route because it has already been done to death by Hollywood. There is still room for the foreign drama to be successful, however. If La Vie En Rose was in English, it would have made far more than 10 million USD, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown would have made more than 7 million USD, and I personally am offended that The Lives of Others only made 11 million USD, when I have never met someone who has seen it and has not absolutely loved it.
There are so many problems causing the lack of success it is laughable. For instance, I live in a city metro area of 250,000 people. I had to drive an hour and a half to Madison, WI to see La Vie En Rose. Are you telling me in a city with 250,000 people and five theaters, not one would have been viable to release a foreign language film in?
I know the Oscars tend not to care about high grossing films, and most people couldn’t name many of the awards given out, but Best Picture is an ear and eye-catching award. Two of the five theaters here will re-release all the Best Picture nominees from the time they are announced up until the Oscars. So I think Hollywood is once again causing themselves fiscal misery by not giving foreign films fair representation in the Best Picture category. The Best Foreign Film award is great, but usually the winner and one other nominee could be put in the Best Picture category. For example, last years winner The Secret in Their Eyes and another nominee The White Ribbon were in my opinion easily better than nominees Avatar and District 9.
At the end of the day it will be an uphill and possibly endless battle to see foreign language films get their rightful place in the national mindset of Americans as great films. There will always be film students, film lovers, rebellious hipsters, and accidental watchers who fall in love with these movies. So far, there have been no good solutions to the problem foreign language films face in America. We can only hope our favorite foreign films don’t face the diabolical, double edged-sword solution: the American remake.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find William as EquityDiversity on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.