Before the Summer Olympics last year, we featured a week’s worth of Olympics-themed movies. But there are not that many of those, so I thought it would be fun to try something different for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, and it is going to be our most ambitious and diverse Virtual Film Festival yet! As the competition and ceremonies will continue for 19 days and nights, starting February 2, we will be featuring 19 movies celebrating the international nature of cinema. It’s the World Cinema Winter Festival!
Keeping with the winter sports theme, we will be featuring movies originating from the 16 nations that have won the most medals over the history of the Winter Olympics, as well as three Wild Card entries from Africa, Oceania, and South America, in order to have representation from every continent, because those places are understandably less good at skiing and stuff. We picked these particular movies either by randomly picking from the entries of each country (of those we haven’t featured yet on the site) contained in the current edition of 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, or in a case of the few countries without any entries on that list (the Swiss movie industry needs to get its stuff together) picked off of other online lists of movies from those countries.
In alphabetical order by country, here are the entries in the World Cinema Winter Festival. Who will win Gold, Silver, and Bronze? You decide:
- Africa (Mali): Yeelen (1987 – dir: Souleymane Cissé) – Probably the closest you’ll get to African Epic Fantasy, about a magical quest through 13th-century Mali.
- Austria: Funny Games (1997 – dir: Michael Haneke) – A hard-to-watch deconstruction of the thriller in which two bored criminals (who seem to be aware they’re in a movie) invade a family’s vacation home and torture them for no particular reason.
- Canada: Archangel (1990 – dir: Guy Maddin) – A highly fictionalized faux-silent depiction of a brief moment of Canadian intervention in the Russian Civil War (an actual thing), from one of our weirder modern directors.
- China: The Blue Kite (1993 – dir: Tian Zhuangzhuang) – A boy and his family live through various travails in mid-20th Century China, including the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, in a movie that got its director banned from making any films for 10 years by the Chinese government.
- Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia: Ucho (The Ear) (1970 – dir: Karel Kachyňa) – A government minister and his wife have a very strange night after a party when they start to suspect someone is listening in on their conversations, a critique of the current Czech regime that the government suppressed entirely for 18 years.
- Finland: Ariel (1988 – dir: Aki Kaurismäki) – A coal miner from Lapland has to find a way to make it in the big city after the mine closes, where he meets a girl in this very down-to-earth drama.
- France: Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Céline and Julie Go Boating) (1974 – dir: Jacques Rivette) – Two women, one of whom is a magician, go on a series of adventures involving time jumps, murder mysteries, haunted houses, etc. in one of the more wildly inventive entries of the French New Wave.
- Germany: Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler) (1921 – dir: Fritz Lang) – A surprisingly still-effective silent thriller about a criminal mastermind that is thought to have been a huge influence on the modern-day supervillain.
- Italy: La Strada (1957 – dir: Federico Fellini) – An innocent girl is bought from her impoverished mother by a strongman and goes on an odyssey among the Roman lowlifes in one of Fellini’s more beloved films.
- Japan: Ugetsu Monogatari (The Tale of Ugetsu) (1953 – dir: Kenji Mizoguchi) – Based on a collection of Japanese supernatural stories from the 1700s, centering on a potter seduced away from his family by a spirit.
- The Netherlands: Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988 – dir: George Sluizer) – A man becomes obsessed with finding his wife after she walks into a roadside service station and just disappears, in what is now seen as something of a horror classic.
- Norway: Insomnia (1997 – dir: Erik Skjoldbjærg) – A detective investigates a murder under the Midnight Sun above the Arctic Circle in this international hit thriller.
- Oceania (Australia): The Last Wave (1987 – dir: Peter Weir) – A “mystical drama” about a white Sydney lawyer who agrees to take murder case and ends up discovering he shares some sort of weird connection with a group of Aboriginal men accused of the crime.
- Russia/Soviet Union: Storm Over Asia (1928 – dir: Vsevolod Pudovkin) – A Soviet propaganda movie about a Mongol rebel discovering the virtues of communism, shot on location in Siberia.
- South America (Brazil): Limite (1931 – dir: Mário Peixoto) – An “experimental silent film” about a man and a woman stranded on a rowboat, with flashbacks to their lives, that is apparently considered a contender for the greatest Brazilian film.
- South Korea: The Housemaid (1960 – dir: Kim Ki-Young) – This “domestic horror thriller,” about the destruction of an upper-class family after they hire a new, sexually predatory maid, is widely considered one of the big classic Korean movies.
- Sweden: Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) (1957 – dir: Ingmar Bergman) – An old scientist goes for a long car ride to get an honorary degree and meets a series of hitchhikers who trigger a series of flashbacks about his life and a lot of typical Bergman soul-searching.
- Switzerland: F. est un Salaud (Fögi is a Bastard) (1998 – dir: Marcel Gisler) – An innocent teenager falls hard for an older rock singer who takes him on his roadie, and the two of them have a same-sex relationship.
- United States: Sergeant York (1941 – dir: Howard Hawks) – Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of a real-life World War I soldier who became a decorated hero after his application for “conscientious objector” status was denied.