Favorite Flicks of Adventure, Bravery and Heart

Me and Marianna, the foreign film buff

A foreign film nut, here’re my faves; and be sure to take the poll, read on…

I am HUGE film buff! Correction, my friend Marianna, is the HUGE film fan. In fact, she has a cool foreign film club, albeit with a fairly stringent set of rules about participation…

Marianna’s Foreign Film Night

You pick a foreign film and then host the movie screening at your house while serving the food of that country. Sounds easy, but you need to know the political background of the film, have pop quiz on historical facts ready, and the food quality/décor competition is fierce.

She kicked off the film club with Blackbook, a Dutch film about the resistance during WWII. Now, you wouldn’t usually associate the word “gourmet” with Dutch food, but boy did she and her husband Pat knock it out of the park! In fact, Pat made a deep dish Dutch apple pie that ruled the world. (Since I was dating a Dutch guy at the time, I considered bringing a date from each sponsored country. I am, after all, an overachiever.)

Mongol: Originally I had planned to show the movie War Dance (Uganda) and serve pan-African food. Unfortunately, I had to change the date of the screening twice that summer and finally cancel. (At this point, I was in serious danger of being kicked out of the Foreign Film Club – Yikes!)

Luckily, the rules were stretched and I was back on the calendar to show the film Mongol (having just been to Mongolia and all). I thought we could do a Mongolian hot pot party and try Mongolian throat singing – fun! Well, after a few beers, throat singing might be fun… Read the Post:  Mongols… Head for the Hills!

Favorite Documentaries

War  Photographer & HumanistWar Photographer
James Nachtwey is a documentary filmmaker and War Photographer is hands down my favorite film of all time.

In 2002, War Photographer was nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, won the Peabody Award and 16 other international film awards.

I saw it by myself at the Film Forum in the West Village, and never before have I been to a theater when literally every person in the audience was holding their breath.

It was silent as we watched his incredible (and devastating) documentation of Indonesians working in the sulfur mines and poor families living between railroad tracks.

See it and it will change your life.


A Walk to Beautiful

This film was brought to my attention by Daynan, who referred me to the producer as they were trying to raise the funds to finish the film editing. During the two weeks we were talking, they received a grant from Nova – exactly the amount they needed to finish the project. Yahoo!

The winner of many awards, particularly “people’s choice” awards and human rights awards, A Walk to Beautiful portrays the lives of women living in Ethiopia who suffer from fistulas. Fistulas are the tearing of the skin separating the vagina and bladder or vagina and rectum (sometimes both in extreme cases), causing a constant stream of urine or feces to run down the woman’s leg. The tearing occurs in childbirth, during a protracted labor of 3-10 days and usually results in a still birth.

Fistulas are prevalent in Ethiopia (and other Northern African countries, such as Somalia and Sudan) for a number of reasons. First, the girls are generally malnourished and from the ages of 2-3 years must perform heavy labor and lifting as part of their everyday household chores, so they are physically smaller than they normally would be. Second, girls are married at young ages, sometimes as young as 10-12 years, and so start sexual relations before their bodies have fully matured.

Once their bodies are torn, they are often ostracized from their families and the village. They are usually given a separate place to sleep (many times with the farm animals) and endure a tremendous stigma. The lucky ones are able to make it to the capital Addis Ababa to the fistula hospital where they can undergo an operation to repair the tear. The operation is successful 90% of the time, enabling the women to return to their previous lives (although some choose not to).

A Walk to Beautiful portrays a number of women as they make the journey to the fistula hospital to receive a second chance at life. A truly moving film that will open you eyes to the boundless courage of these women. You will cry while watching. Learn more, listen to an NPR report.

You choose. What's your favorite?

War Dance
Uganda: Nominated for an Academy Award in 2007, War Dance was written and directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. As you watch, you root for the children of the Patongo school as they compete in Uganda’s national dance competition. Unfortunately, their competitive advantage is that these children – mainly orphans from the Acholi tribe – dance and sing to forget the atrocities they and their families suffered at the hand of the Lord’s Resistance Army. In the end, you’re not only cheering for them, they’re cheering for themselves! Rock on!

Born into Brothels
India: This film by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski won the 2005 Oscar for Best Documentary Film. Out of the 9 Calcutta children that the documentary follows, only 2 stay the course and stay in school. It is heart-breaking to see the decisions that the parental figures are making for these kids – decisions that will doom them to lives of poverty and prostitution. The underpinning of this film is the pressure economic need plays in determining these children’s future and the absence of hope that accompanies their fate.

There’s a curriculum guide and a Kids with Cameras book showcasing the photos taken by the children during their photography workshop. Most importantly, there’s a chance to support one of the boys, Avijit, by buying his artwork as he attends NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. Check out his postcard collection here: http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/postcards/

Favorite reads for the traveler and armchair traveler

Other faves…


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 and is filed under Erin Then.

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