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Foreign Films A Window To The World

Updated on March 25, 2017
Rekha, as Umrao Jaan.
Rekha, as Umrao Jaan. | Source
Sub-titles enable us to enjoy classic Indian films such as Umrao Jaan starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan (before they got married). Very sad story about the pain of being female.
Sub-titles enable us to enjoy classic Indian films such as Umrao Jaan starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan (before they got married). Very sad story about the pain of being female.

HMV, the Canadian music store, where we used to buy DVD's with different labels: action, romantic comedy, horror or art house movies (foreign movies), went out of business in 2017.

French and Italian films used to dominate the foreign movies section, not anymore because the Cannes Film Festival, TIFF and The Academy Awards (Oscars) are continuously discovering new directors.

Iran movies continue to do well in film festivals and we appreciate them because of sub titles. Acting is equally important because something is always lost in translation.

Cinematography is also important in foreign films because they place the story in a place and time. Hollywood cinematography and foreign film cinematography tend to be different. Hollywood has bigger budgets for camera crews, lighting and shooting schedules.

Most foreign films do not have that luxury so they shoot differently, which includes long takes. Sub titles sew the whole thing together to make us understand the story better.

World Cinema

Movies in Spanish, French, German or English are made for audiences that speak and understand these languages.

Movies made in Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba are made for Nigeria, the 7th largest country in the world in terms of population.

Nollywood, as the Nigerian home video industry is known crafts stories for audiences that say good morning or goodnight, I’m hungry, let’s start the wedding preparations, you have the job, she delivered triplets, I won’t give you a single kobo, you cheated me etc. in these languages.

Chinese, Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, or Russian movies are also made for certain audiences. Most of these languages are spoken in the biggest - population wise - countries of the world.

Ten Biggest Countries

United States

Sub-Titles Not A Right

Producers and directors are under no obligation to provide us with English or French sub-titles, because they were made for the world languages mentioned in the first few paragraphs. In many cases, producers do not even know that their movies are online.

This platform called the internet has ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’, if you give me the permission to use this phrase. Was it a movie or a song? I don’t remember.

The ugly aspect are comments to someone’s blog or a movie. Some are complimentary. Others are downright vicious, made by cowards who do not show their photos. It is hard to understand the demand for sub-titles. It is not a right. It is an online perk.

I Hate Sub-Titles

The other side of the coin is the declaration ‘I hate sub-titles’. This is a problem if you like people. I love foreign films because I’m an illegal alien, constantly trying to find out how other languages deal with love, hate, pain, acceptance, rejection or death.

Hating sub-titles means:

  • My language is superior.

  • Whoever divided the world into countries and languages is dumb.

  • My world is the centre of the universe.

  • Please give me donkey blinders. I don’t want to see hear anything outside my language.

Sub-Titles Invitation to Understanding

If I hated sub-titles, I would be more ignorant than I am now. My Indian DVD collection had sub-titles, probably because Indians live at home and abroad and producers want their films to be seen east, west, south and north.

The owner of the store where I bought the DVD’s was also helpful. He told me if a movie did not have sub-titles. I remember buying one with Aishwarya Rai (before she got married) although it didn’t have them.

“There are other actors besides Aishwarya, you know” he said. Oops! Sorry! Outsiders like me usually step on Indian soil via movies such as Khakee, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas, Devdas, Taal, Umrao Jaan, Guru, Raavan, Jodhaa Akbar or Endhiran.


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    • bonda profile image

      Nonqaba waka Msimang 3 years ago from Canada

      I grew up watching dubbed kung fu movies. We did not know that it was dubbing then, but there was something not right about somebody from China speaking African languages. We decided to ignore the voices and concentrate on the action and flying kicks.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 3 years ago from The Garden State

      A common complaint about subtitles is "they're distracting" or "I don't want to have to 'read' a movie." I used to feel this way but as I got older and my tastes in film broadened I managed to "get over" it and now sub-titles don't bother me.

      Of course, the flip side is that dubbing a film into English can sometimes add a certain amount of unintentional comedy to the proceedings, either due to poor script translation, or un-inspired voice actors providing the English language track. I've seen a lot of low budget Italian horror films that were dubbed into English, and the dubbing usually makes them even more entertainingly bad!!