I never was a movie buff, nor even a real fan of cinema. I was content to just watch whatever was in theaters at the time, so I typically ingested rom-coms and the occasional action/adventure film, the usual stuff you watch with friends on a Friday night after a slow week of school. Then nearly overnight during summer vacation, I became curious about what movies from other countries were like, whether they differed much from our own. I launched myself on a couch potato adventure: to watch as many foreign films as possible. By pursuing this fascination in the films of other countries, I found that cinema was a fun and interesting way of learning about other cultures, and in this way I gained a greater appreciation for cinema itself as an art form.

My quest gained new vigor when I took a class on French cinema, and I found myself enthralled by French culture through these films. Since then, I have become addicted to French films. They open up a new world to the imagination, allowing people like myself who have never travelled to France to experience life there. This applies to the films of any nation, for every nation produces its own filmmakers with their own distinct views on their culture. So what better way to immerse yourself in a foreign place than to watch the films produced by the people there? Just because America is a major producer of movies does not mean it is the only one. It’s really a shame that theaters rarely show foreign films. But of course, it’s not necessarily their fault, because they only show films they feel will be financial successes. Knowing the tastes of their audiences, they usually opt for not screening foreign films.

So I’ve decided that it is my duty as a “citizen of the world” to break out of the habit of only watching the latest blockbusters in order to discover the films of other cultures. I have chosen to start with French cinema, and I hope to expand from there. For those who do not already do so, try watching foreign films, new and old. I guarantee you’ll be entertained, and I’m just as sure that you’ll learn something new too.

There are many places to access foreign films. One way is by supporting local arthouse movie theaters. Turner Classic Movies sometimes shows classic foreign films, and other channels like Sundance and IFC occasionally show old and new ones. Also, many foreign films are available on the internet. You can find classic films on Youtube or on sites like openculture.com. Netflix has a decent selection available, though many have to be ordered by DVD. High-grossing or critically acclaimed foreign films often sneak into theaters over here, especially around Los Angeles, so just keep your eyes on the lookout.

For those interested in French films, Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Santa Monica is currently showing The Illusionist, an animated film directed by Sylvain Chomet and with a screenplay written by the French comic filmmaker Jacques Tati. It is a story about a struggling illusionist who travels to a Scottish town where he meets a young girl who believes he is really capable of producing magic.

Give foreign films a try. Watch something that looks bizarre, something that you might not understand, something you might learn from. Why not? A movie will typically take up no more than two hours of your life, and you might just discover  a world you never knew existed.

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