As the first half of the year draws to a close, we decided to look back at the international films that have made their mark on the cinema world (and were the most talked about in the World Movies office) so far in 2012.
In a year of enormous blockbusters – from the enormous return of Titanic to the record-breaking superheroes of The Avengers – it’s easy to forget that it was a foreign film that took out the movie world’s top honour: the 2012 Oscar for Best Picture.
Read our top ten international films of 2012 below, and let us know what your favourites so far are…
Although produced in 2010, this animated Japanese fantasy film was released worldwide this year to resounding critical acclaim. Created by anime master Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), and based on Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers, it is a heart-warming story about the relationship between a young Borrower and the human boy whose house she inhabits.
9. The Artist
This French film brought the creative partnership between director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin to a whimsical climax; utilising the conventions of silent film to create a truly international movie that could be enjoyed worldwide. With the backing of distribution/marketing colossus The Weinstein Company, it went on to earn over $130million worldwide, and won five Academy Awards.
This Hitchcockian thriller from Norway stunned audiences worldwide with a wildly unpredictable plot. It follows the story of Roger – a corporate headhunter who moonlights as a professional art thief – who finds himself on the run from a killer and the police. It’s one of the most innovative thrillers to grace our screens so far this year (and sure to get a US remake soon).
7. Silent Souls
How many films have there been about Russia’s indigenous people this year? Or ever? This unassuming feature is a journey through modern Russia, as well as a poignant look at the ancient indigenous cultures that still connect people and place through tradition and story.
6. The Raid
It’s hard to imagine another film this year beating The Raid in the adrenaline-pumping, furiously-paced action film stakes. This Indonesian film showcased the martial art Pencak Silat to heart-racing effect, telling the story of a violent police raid on an abandoned apartment building riddled with gang members. While a sequel is already in the works, Sony is now working on a US remake.
It may be an English film, but Steve McQueen’s study of modern connection, sexual obsession and family left a lasting impression on international audiences. Not least because of long-time collaborator Michael Fassbender’s incredible performance as a high-flying nymphomaniac whose life begins the crumble upon the arrival of his troubled sister (Carey Mulligan).
Ma√Øwenn’s searing documentary-style film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was a hit at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. It follows the Parisian Police as they negotiate the perilous cases of the Child Protection Unit. Her third feature, Ma√Øwenn embarked on an internship with the police after seeing a documentary about their work with children, and her experiences formed the basis of this gritty, confronting and entirely unmissable film.
One of the year’s most celebrated films, Elena is the latest from Russian maestro Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return) and arguably his best work to date. It’s the haunting story of a woman who will do anything to ensure the protection of her family, and a modern morality tale about coveted inheritance. It is also exceptionally shot and acted, and for all the above reasons won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
2. The Kid With A Bike
This heart-warming drama was a departure in tone for Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, who are twice Palme d’Or winners for their stark neorealism films. The Kid With a Bike was received with almost universal acclaim, and its story of a young orphaned boy in search of his bike and his parents drew cleverly on De Sica’s genre classic Bicycle Thieves.
1. A Separation
This courageously humane Iranian film impacted audiences and the international film industry in ways that no other film has this year. A Separation depicts the separation of a middle-class Iranian family, and the conflict between family ties and a better, new life. The film by Asghar Farhadi won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Feature, and we’ll be surprised if there’s a more moving and unique film in the next six months to take its place.
While 2012 has been great for international cinema so far, there are a number of films we’re already looking forward to seeing in the coming months, including The Sapphires (9 August), Holy Motors (23 August), Monsieur Lazhar (6 September), and our Sydney Film Festival favourite Beasts of the Southern Wild (13 September).
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