INDUSTRY: A Decade of Film

A retrospective look at Global Lens via the images and ideas that took our signature series from infancy to adulthood…  

As writer Robert Mckee said, “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

We agree.

Stories are the basis of humanity. They teach, they entertain, and they shape how we see the world. As humans, we are wired to connect and bond with others.

GFI was created with this purpose: to create global understanding, empathy and connectivity through the powerful medium of film, and to promote and support the vibrant growth of global filmmaking. To date, we have distributed 96 independent films from over 38 countries to North American audiences, and hosted screenings in every U.S. state except North Dakota. (Anyone in North Dakota want to help us with our 2013 New Years Resolution? Contact us!)

Through these films, we hope to inspire people to keep learning about other perspectives and ways of life. In celebration of Global Lens’ 10th year anniversary in January, we take a look at some of our films and the themes they contain from the past decade…

The Universal Story

Self-esteem. Coming-of-age. Life’s monotony. These next few films represent the everyday struggles and triumphs of the human spirit, interpreted uniquely through the lens of another culture.

Fat, Bald, Short Man  (Colombia)

The prospects for a lonely middle-age notary worker unexpectedly change after he joins a self-improvement group and his charismatic new boss-andstrangely affable doppleganger- takes an interest in his life. In rotoscope style, director Carlos Osuna’s first feature film is a tribute to self-esteem and acceptance. (Global Lens 2012)

Tollbooth  (Turkey)

A middle-age bachelor begins to crack under the strain of a domineering father and his suffocating work routine as tollbooth attendant until a reassignment to the countryside opens up the possibility of romance. But is this salvation for the aging bachelor, or the further unraveling of his mind? An expert cast and keen art direction contribute to this wry, heartbreaking ode to lost dreams in a sleepwalking world. Directed by Tolga Karaçelik. (Global Lens 2012)

Beijing Flickers (China)

An ode to an aimless generation, director’s Zhang Yuan’s film shows a new side of life in China’s capital. After loosing his job, his girlfriend, and his apartment, San Bao roams the city with other young, cash-poor dreamers in this darkly funny, gorgeously gritty portrait of disaffected youth. (Global Lens 2013)

 Leo’s Room (Uruguay)

Shaken by a recent breakup, a troubled but handsome young man dreams of the future and cautiously explores his sexuality with the encouragement of an old friend and a sympathetic therapist. Director Enrique Buchichio’s film is an ode to dealing with feelings of isolation and coming-of-age in a modern city. (Global Lens 2010)

Social Change

From women’s empowerment in Egypt to gay activists in Serbia, these films put the spotlight on societies in transition, highlighting universal issues in the context of a single nation.

The Parade  (Serbia)

Directed by Srdjan Dragojević, The Parade puts the spotlight on the gay rights movement in Serbia. In exchange for some wedding-planning expertise, a macho Serbian crime boss recruits a ragtag group of Balkan war-buddies to provide protection for a Pride march in this rollicking yet poignant comedy inspired by real events. (Global Lens 2013)

My Tehran for Sale (Iran)

Filmed undercover in the streets of Iran, Poet-turned-filmmaker Granaz Moussavi boldly registers the trials of a modern woman struggling to flourish in Iran’s contemporary political climate. In this riveting, insider’s perspective on life in Iran’s capital city, Marzieh—a terminally ill actress—wearily relates her desperate quest for political asylum through a series of interviews with an unsympathetic government official. (Global Lens 2010)

Cairo 678 (Egypt)

Three Cairene women from different backgrounds join together in uneasy solidarity to combat the sexual harassment that has impacted each of their lives. (Global Lens 2013)


It is the world’s most timeless subject. These stories capture love triangles, wedding plans gone awry, and the cross-cultural mishaps that happen when two lives connect from across borders and cultures.

 Masquerades (Algeria)

After working for much of his life as a gardener in his dusty Algerian village, Mounir dreams of improving his family’s fortune and gaining a measure of respect by marrying off his narcoleptic sister, Rym, to a “real gentleman.” However, Rym has other plans—she dreams of marrying Mounir’s best friend, Khliffa, who has secretly courted her for years. Beautifully brought to life by a memorable cast—including director Lyes Salem as the cocky but compassionate bumbler Mounir—this heartfelt comedy suggests that when dreams become reality, it’s time to wake up. (Global Lens 2010)


Song from the Southern Seas (Kazakhstan)

Two couples, one Russian and one Kazakh, live side by side in relative harmony in a beautiful yet semi-desolate region of the Great Steppe. But when the fair-skinned Russians give birth to a boy of decidedly darker skin, fifteen years of suspicion and acrimony arises between them, and can only be resolved by an ironic twist of family and fate. At times darkly somber, at other times tender and wistful—and buoyed throughout by a soundtrack of folk-inspired melodies—writer-director Marat Sarulu draws on Kazakhstan’s epic history to create a gritty and deeply compassionate tale of humor and cultural insight. (Global Lens 2009)

What a Wonderful World (Morocco)

On the streets of Casablanca, a prostitute’s best friend – a tough traffic cop – falls in love with her best customer, a contract killer. Moroccan actor-director Faouzi Bensaïdi’s promiscuously stylish film is a new vision of an old culture, unveiling an uncommon Casablanca caught in a world wide web of associations and consequences. (Global Lens 2009) 

The Art of Filmmaking

Whether its stunning cinematography or exuberant acting styles, these next few films showcase the fine art of telling a story through film.

The White Meadows  (Iran)

Rahmat the boatman sets out to collect the tears and heartache of nearby grieving island residents. Drawing first-hand on the challenges faced by Iranian artists of today, writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof’s deeply atmospheric and poetical film is a gorgeous allegory of intolerance, brutality and mystified routine that resonates far beyond any one state’s borders. (Global Lens 2011) 

 Opera Jawa (Indonesia)

Located in lush forests and on pristine beaches of Java, director Garin Nugroho bases his deeply imagistic and dazzling visual narrative on the The Abduction of Sita, from the Hindu epic, The Ramayana. Setyo and Siti live a peaceful life as husband and wife, selling earthenware in their village. But when Setyo is called away on business, a flirtatious butcher, Ludiro, takes advantage of Siti’s loneliness to seduce her. Tempted by song and dance, Siti initially refuses his advances but acquiesces in a moment of weakness, setting the stage for an epic battle between the two men. (Global Lens 2008) 

 Margarette’s Feast (Brazil)

Brazilian, black-and-white silent film, Margarette’s Feast, is director Renato Falcão’s stunning debut feature. The phenomenal Hique Gomez plays the stereotypical little-guy-against-the-world whose predicament transforms him into this tall stick of a human alternately tugging at your heart-strings and your laugh-out-loud muscles in a pitch perfect blend of tragedy and comedy. The film makes dazzling use of exhilarating Brazilian music, intentionally under-lit photography, exuberant acting styles, and a cast of characters spanning the social spectrum that would be the envy of Dicken’s or Balzac. (Global Lens 2004)

War and Conflict

These powerful narratives put the spotlight on important issues about the aftermath of armed conflict. By opening up dialogue on topics like the nature of political violence and the effects of war on a local community, these filmmakers help show the effects of war on individual lives that mainstream media may not.

Grey Matter (Rwanda)

Set in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, this film-within-a-film describes the vision and trials of a determined filmmaker, Balthazar, as he tries to produce his first feature film about the aftermath of his country’s genocide. After government officials decline to support his project, he enlists the support of a loan shark to finance his trenchantdrama. Director Kivu Ruhorahoza’s first film is a look at the nature of political violence, and the psyche of a nation trying to recover.
(Global Lens 2012)

The Kite  (Lebanon)

Lamia must cross a border checkpoint between Lebanon and Israel to marry a man she has never met. But on her wedding day, neither she nor her betrothed are eager to consummate a marriage to a stranger—a matter further complicated by Lamia’s surprising admission that she is in love with the Israeli soldier guarding the checkpoint. Sabbag’s enchanting drama about marriage and tradition is underscored by delicate symbolism and artful references to politics of Lebanon’s annexed territories. Directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag. This was Lebanon’s Official Submission to the 2003 Academy Awards. (Global Lens 2008)

 Belvedere (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Ruveyda is like most residents of the Belvedere refugee camp: a widow yearning to forget the tragedy of war, fifteen years after the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An emotionally rich portrait of war’s troubled aftermath, director Ahmed Imamovi’s film paints an uncommon image of patience, faith, love, and above all, forgiveness. *Bosnia & Herzegovina official submission to the 2012 Academy Awards. (Global Lens 2011)

 Rachida  (Algeria)

Through the eyes of a local schoolteacher, we see the effects of Algeria’s 1990s civil war on a local community. The story is universal- that of an ordinary person trying to live amongst a city descended into chaos, and the effects of war on an individual’s psyche. Directed by Yamina Bachir-Chouikh. *Algeria’s official selection to 2002 Academy Awards. (Global Lens 2004)


From life under Argentina’s dictatorship, to family life in rural Brazil, these strong narratives reveal worlds through the eyes of children to help tell a story through the perspective of innocence.

Mutum (Brazil)

Burdened by his parents’ unhappy marriage and father’s abuse, a young boy in rural Brazil grapples with his disintegrating family and uncertainties of the adult world. Director Sandra Kogut, in her poetic adaptation of the Brazilian short story Campo Geral, focuses on minute details of rural life to tell a bittersweet story of one boy’s coming-of-age amidst events both great and small. (Global Lens 2009)

Mourning (Iran)

In the wake of his parents’ disappearance, a young boy is placed in the care of his deaf aunt and uncle who, during a road trip to Tehran, engage in a silent but apparently not-so-secret debate about the child’s future. Thus a car trip becomes an intriguing, subtly humorous, deeply compassionate meditation on communication and emotional disability in this stunning debut by Abbas Kiarostami protégé Morteza Farshbaf. (Global Lens 2012)

The Prize (Argentina)

Under the cloud of a military dictatorship, a young mother and her daughter flee Buenos Aires for an isolated stretch of Argentina’s coastline. Restlessly curious seven-year-old Cecilia joins a nearby school overseen by a kindly teacher. A childhood idyll, however, soon becomes contaminated by the general political crisis, as the teacher recruits the class for a patriotic essay contest sponsored by the army—the very people that may have already “disappeared” Cecilia’s father—in this superbly acted and engrossingly atmospheric drama about innocence in illicit times. Directed by Paula Markovitc (Global Lens 2012)

A Portrait of an Artist

From struggling actresses to aspiring filmmakers, these films chronicle the universal theme of trying to make a living in this bustling world.

Craft (Brazil)

Bianca manages a precarious living as a talented but underemployed actress in Rio de Janeiro, performing for private events dressed as female movie icons. Troubled by the thought she has missed her chance at a “big break,” she perseveres with single-minded dedication to her craft—until an audition leads to a rare opportunity, and possible redemption for years of social marginality. But her world may still prove too insecure, even for one as gifted and deserving as Bianca. (Global Lens 2012) 

Life Kills Me (Chile)

Life and death come wrapped in a mutual embrace, absurd and poignant at once, in celebrated director Sebastian Silva’s debut film about the unlikely friendship between a grieving young cinematographer and a morbidly obsessed drifter. (Global Lens 2013)

 The Photograph (Indonesia)

Sita is a spirited young woman working to support her family as a singer and prostitute in a local brothel. Always short of funds and bullied by her pimp, she convinces an elderly portrait photographer, Mr. Johan, to rent her a room; in failing health, Mr. Johan is desperate to find an apprentice to carry on his work before he dies. The unlikely bond that develops between Sita and Mr. Johan is the basis of writer-director Nan Achnas’s visually brilliant and poignant human drama about the profound effect one life can have on another. (Global Lens 2009)

Rebirth of a Nation

These stories spotlight the dreams and lives of the new generation around the world- exploring how their country’s past has shaped their identities, while revealing the impact that history has on going forward, and the inseparable connection to one’s homeland.

Bunny Chow (South Africa)

Three up-and-coming comedians head out on a road trip, abandoning rules, reason and girlfriends to find music and the meaning of life in the “new” South Africa. Shot in a cinema vérité style and using the street food ‘bunny chow’ as a metaphor for contemporary Johannesburg’s mix of races, cultures and attitudes, director John Barker’s edgy, urban comedy asks us to envision a nation through the eyes of its future, rather than the tragedy of its past. (Global Lens 2008)

 Becloud (Mexico)

After years of separation, three boyhood friends reunite in Mexico City to overcome a tragedy that scarred their neighborhood, and childhood, years before. In this shrewd and well-acted story, director Alejandro Gerber Bicecci turns a tangled neighborhood tale into an enthralling mix of history, memory and atonement, creating an unexpected parable of modern Mexico itself. (Global Lens 2010)

Let the Wind Blow (India)

At the height of nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan, Arjun and his best friend, Chabia, weigh their options for the future against the reality of life on the streets of Mumbai. Enticed by the promise of wealth and opportunity in the Persian Gulf, Chabia is eager to leave his job as a mechanic. But for Arjun, who must finish college and care for his mother, the decision is not so easy in director Partho Sen-Gupta’s gritty, apocalyptic interpretation of Krishna’s counsel to Arjuna, from the Bhagavad Gita. (Global Lens 2008)



It is hard to define a culture without bringing up food. Along with language, a cuisine is the backbone of a culture’s history and traditions. These films take us through variety of local dishes. (Film foodies, this is for you!)


The Fish Fall in Love (Iran)

Atieh’s singular passion is food, and her small but popular restaurant on the sleepy Caspian coast is her pride and joy. But when Aziz, her former fiancé, appears after a twenty-year absence, the women believe he has intentions of closing the restaurant, so Atieh prepares his favorite dishes, one after the other, in a desperate effort to convince him otherwise. Loosely based on the Persian fable of Shahrazad and the Thousand Myths (A Thousand and One Nights), director Ali Raffi uses the language of food to paint a richly textured portrait of life and love on the northern coast of Iran. (Global Lens 2008)

 Border Cafe (Iran)

In a village near Iran’s border with Turkey, Reyhan, a young woman with two children, faces a difficult choice when her husband dies.Instead of agreeing to marry her brother-in-law, as required by traditional law, she chooses to support her family by re-opening her late husband’s restaurant. Kambozia Partovia represents Reyhan’s struggle for self-sufficiency in a rigidly traditional environment as all too real, and is continuously pressured to move into her brother-in-law’s home and become his second wife. *Iran’s official submission to the 2006 Academy Awards. (Global Lens 2006) 
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