Foreign films sail to the states


Foreign films in the past have had trouble getting their media in America however, recently they have gained popularity in the states.

Lily Howard

Behind every movie and television series is a team of cast and crew members who put hard work into creating a quality product. Yet, some audiences may never enjoy these productions, as they must first go through numerous obstacles to reach foreign markets.

Foreign media has struggled to break into American box offices. South Korean thriller Parasite is the only non-English movie that has won an Oscar for Best Motion Picture in the past 95 years. While audiences might still be warming up to content in other languages, there might be more keeping these titles from stealing the spotlight.

Movies and television shows have to undergo a multitude of changes before reaching foreign audiences, starting with their titles. Whether it’s to market to English audiences or simply create a name in a language more viewers understand, marketers can find issues with changing certain titles. According to translations from the New York Times, some names can stay somewhat intact, such as Spanish film The Platform, whose original title translated more directly to “The Hole.” Other films may completely change, such as the 2007 coming-of-age film Water Lilies, which was initially titled “Birth of the Octopuses” in French.

All of the dialogue has to be translated into subtitles as well. This presents a new issue, as some audiences don’t want to read while trying to watch what’s on the screen. Older generations especially avoid subtitles, as 63% of those aged 46 to 55 and 77% of viewers over 56 never use them, as reported by a Stagetext study.

English dubs are another solution for foreign audiences. Voice actors can read translated dialogue and have their audio played over the media. Many viewers dislike this option, as the lines are more easily misinterpreted and don’t match up with the characters’ mouths. Junior Alex Batzar of Middletown agrees with this sentiment, but understands they can be helpful.

“I prefer subtitles because once dubbed it doesn’t look like the actors are speaking, as in the case of shows like Young Royals. It’s a voice-over so it doesn’t line up with their mouths,” Batzar stated. “However, while reading the subtitles, you might miss something happening on screen.”

Despite their struggle, recent years have shown more success with foreign shows such as Netflix’s Squid Game, which is reported as the platform’s most popular show with over 1.6 billion hours streamed. Junior Lydia Olivieri of Colts Neck believes part of these titles’ successes are from the unique stories they tell, especially with Netflix’s Young Royals.

“When we find a really moving or entertaining story, we’re able to sort of break down those boundaries and let ourselves transcend that language and cultural barrier,” Olivieri stated. “The key to a successful international show is to shed a light on any experience that is, at its core, very human.”

Batzar also enjoys Young Royals, but credits its unusual success to its unique story and its use of live-action footage rather than animation.

“I don’t really watch a lot of foreign media, mostly because I’m not a big fan of animated shows and a lot of foreign media is animated,” Batzar stated. “Young Royals stood out to me because the actors are really good and it’s a really nice story.”

Even though most foreign media doesn’t perform nearly as well as these titles, they still could bring new ideas to the stage that most American content doesn’t. Sophomore Isabel Santamaria, who enjoys French and Italian films, finds that other countries implement different values into their media.

“In America we value the happy ending or the fairytale romance, but in France it’s commonly met with tragedy or despair,” Santamaria said. “I feel like foreign films are more comfortable hitting viewers with reality and not giving them the happy ending they expect.”

Viewers are still being introduced to foreign media, but with recognition of titles such as Squid Game and Parasite, there could be a bright future for this kind of content.

“I think foreign media can offer different perspectives than American media, and it’s always beneficial to try new things,” said junior Sam Silvestro of Shrewsbury. “If you’re thinking, ‘why should I watch foreign media?’ the only answer is ‘why not?’”