Posted by: Sally Ingraham | January 22, 2012

Movie Mayhem: World Cinema Series and Foreign Film Festival

world cinemaTwo of my favorite bloggers simultaneously started hosting movie watching events this month, and then kind of joined them up to make one delicious mash-up of true (foreign) movie mayhem. Of course I am beside myself with joy.

Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat came up with the World Cinema Series, which aspires to take the viewer on a whirlwind trip round the globe via film. Her guidelines are simply to find movies that open a door into another culture, preferably made by people from that culture.

Richard of Caravana de recuerdos invites interested folks to attend his Foreign Film Festival and watch movies from directors whose country of origin or residence is not your own.

Both of these charming hosts will be collecting links and occasionally publishing round-up posts so that everyone involved can keep tabs on what everyone else is watching. Richard’s list of links is here (January’s movies at least), and Caroline’s is here (she’s hoping to get at least one film from every country!)

And now, of course, I have a few titles of my own to add to the list:

the guardThe Guard (Writ. & Dir. John Michael McDonagh. Stars Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle. Ireland, 2011)
In a small Irish town, a cop with a perverse sense of humor and a talent for rubbing people the wrong way must team up with a straight-laced, by-the-book FBI agent in order to bring an international drug-trafficking ring down. Not an unusual plot by any means. But Brendan Gleeson (whom I am growing to adore) brings outrageous weirdness to Sergeant Gerry Boyle, balanced by an equally strange dignity. Although initially I wasn’t sure I liked Sgt Boyle, I grew to really care about this odd, socially awkward, probably lonely yet seemingly content man. Don Cheadle isn’t bad either, and the rapport between the two is believable and funny. Almost every scene in the movie has amusing elements, and even the characters with tiny parts are full-bodied (Mark Strong makes his usual hilarious appearance and Fionnula Flanagan is lovely as Sgt Boyle’s ailing mother). It’s not a very sensitive or politically correct movie, with the F word fired like machine gun rounds and plenty of cracks at the expense of Americans or anyone with the misfortune of being from Dublin. Although I was reminded of Guy Ritchie films while watching it, I was amused to find out that writer/director John Michael McDonagh is the brother of Martin McDonagh, who brought the ridiculously good and even more wonky In Bruges to screen (a movie that incidentally also stars Brendan Gleeson). I watched The Guard almost accidentally, but I am more than pleased to have discovered it. If you’re in the mood for a comic thriller (with some rather pretty scenery) this could be just what you’re looking for.

soul kitchenSoul Kitchen (Dir. Fatih Akin. Writ. Fatih Akin and Adam Bousdoukos. Stars Adam Bousdoukos. Germany, 2009)
Greek-German restauranteur Zinos has a lot on his plate. His restaurant in Hamburg is fairly successful, but his girlfriend is leaving him for a job in Shanghai and his brother is out of jail on day-parole as long as he pretends to work for him. When Zinos throws out his back and can no longer cook, a talented (if somewhat volatile) new chef seems like just the ticket. He soon alienates the local customers by refusing to serve their favorite run of the mill fare, and to make matters worse the tax office suddenly comes calling and health inspectors mysteriously show up on Zinos’ door. Soul Kitchen and everything Zinos holds dear teeters on the edge of a cliff. Zinos’ haphazard quest to save his restaurant and get on with his life is a thoroughly endearing tale. The performances (especially Adam Bousdoukos as Zinos and Moritz Bleibtreu as his disastrous but lovable brother) are excellent and the story perfectly combines slap-stick humor, food porn, music, and the dreary, wintery streets of Hamburg to make a highly enjoyable movie and one that I definitely recommend. Fatih Akin (born in Germany but of Turkish decent, fyi) directed the excellent The Edge of Heaven which I saw a few years ago and want to see again. I will also gladly add Head-On to my Netflix queue and, although I didn’t really have any interest in it before, New York, I Love You which has a segment directed by Akin that I’m now curious about. (And that reminds me that I’ve been wanting to watch Paris, je t’aime again – I guess New York, I Love You is considered a companion piece… SO MANY MOVIES TO WATCH!!)

And so my world travels for this year began on the coast of Ireland, and then moved to Hamburg, Germany. Where to next, I wonder, and who will take me there? Many thanks to Caroline and Richard for the extra incentive to travel via film and explore the work of more foreign directors in 2012. I can already tell it’s going to be a fantastic ride. Onward now, to the next port of call.


  1. Thanks for joining and the links.
    I havent watched these but always meant to watch all of Fatih Akin so I will watch this one and I hadn’t heard of the other one. I like Brendan Gleeson and, yes In Bruges is wonky, so that’s a second that goes on my list but… I’m not allowed too mayn of the same country (self-imposed rule)…. It might take a while until I get to them.
    Yes there are many and many good movies till to be watched.

    • That’s an excellent rule because it will cause you to push to find movies from unlikely countries. I will follow suit. 🙂

  2. will have to check out the two sites you direct our attention toward.

    Both Sean and are excited to see The Guard now–sounds fantastic.

    Didn’t like the companion piece “New York, I love you” nearly as much as ‘Paris je t’aime;’ there were moments, but I am very much ready for other cities’ offerings.

    I agree that Caroline’s rules sounds wise. Goodness knows were got stuck in South Korea last year (however, marvelous a time that was).

    • I think you and Sean will enjoy The Guard – at least I hope so!

      Are “they” planning to make more movies like Paris je t’aime?

      I tend to watch lots of films from the UK or France, so it will be fun to push myself to watch things from a broader circle of countries. I should be introduced to plenty of interesting titles through these two combined events. Netflix has such a huge selection too – I spent way too much time adding movies to my queue today…!

  3. Interesting to read an outside perspective on The Guard, which I watched a couple of nights ago but isn’t foreign for me. It was the biggest hit in Irish cinemas last year.
    I liked the “throw it all in a mixer and leave taste and style outside” way it was made. Although I felt there were lines that could have been cut and the reliance on visual humour upped a bit, I enjoyed it.
    The Beckettian gangsters were pretty funny.
    If you liked this and like Brendan Gleeson it would be worth your while chasing down his first indie hit in Ireland (if you haven’t seen it) I Went Down where he plays a hapless gangster partnered with an even more hapless gangster.

    • My goodness, the gangsters were hilarious indeed. I’ll keep an eye out for I Went Down. Netflix (instant streaming at least) is sadly lacking on his back catalog but it might turn up someday…

  4. Thanks for the plug and the reviews, Sarah–plus the laugh for calling me “charming,” ha ha! I wasn’t familiar with with Soul Food before, but now you really make me want to see The Guard. I don’t know why I didn’t see it when it was in the theaters because I enjoy both lead actors’ work. Speaking of which, have you seen The General? That features one of my favorite Gleeson performances, though I tend to like him in just about everything. I missed In Bruges, though, because I can’t stand Colin Farrell. Oh, well, look forward to seeing which movie mayhem countries you head to next. Cheers!

    • I really dislike Colin Farrell too, but he was surprisingly decent in In Bruges – it was an unusual role for him and he played it well. Didn’t make me like him, but didn’t ruin the movie by any means. It might be worth your while to at least try it. 🙂

      I put The General on my Netflix queue. A favorite Gleeson role of mine is in the so bad it’s kind of good movie Lake Placid…! The movie is ridiculous (a monster croc in a lake in Maine?!) but some of the characters are quite funny and well done, Gleeson included.

  5. […] Soul Kitchen (2009) – Sarah (what we have here is a failure to communicate) […]

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