EDUCATION: In Defense of Foreign Films

Pavel (center) with GFI staff (from left): Global Lens Series Manager Jeremy Quist, Administrative Coordinator Emma Rae Lierley, Acquisitions & Granting Coordinator Angelica Dongallo, Marketing & Publicity Manager Hilary Lawson

Pavel Lozin, GFI Acquisitions intern superstar, presents his top five Global Lens picks!

First of all, please excuse me for my terrible English. Besides that…

I spend the major part of my free time on the cinema: writing screenplays, reading cinema-related books, watching films themselves. Why do I do that?

There are many reasons why I’m passionate about cinema, but one reason in particular is that cinema is yet a very young form of art in contrast to other forms of art like paintings, sculpture and literature. This, along with the fact that it only takes 1-2 hours to watch one film, means I have the potential to watch a fair percent of all films in my lifetime (as compared to books, for example).

In the past two years, I’ve watched more than 1,000 films total from around the world. More than 70 of them were part of GFI’s Global Lens film series, which I watched during my time as a volunteer intern here. I want to recommend my five favorite Global Lens series (2007-2012) films, which are not only attractive because of their cultural aspects, but which are also entertaining to watch:

#5 GETTING HOME/LUO YE GUI GEN (dir. Zhang Yang, China, 2007) – Global Lens 2009

When I watched this road-movie, I felt more like a character in the film rather than an observer. My journey was entertaining. I was not on a motorbike ride through a desert full of fast food restaurants, gas stations and cheap motels. My journey was through beautiful mountain landscapes. I was not on wheels. Instead, my wheels were on me. I needed to roll up the hill a huge wheel just as Sisyphus rolled his stone up the hill. The only difference is that I hid a dead body within this huge wheel. Oh, now I need to run because there are cops on my tail…


#4 TOLL BOOTH/GISE MEMURU (dir. Tolga Karaçelik, 2010, Turkey) – Global Lens 2012

One time, I had a conversation with a guy from Sacramento and he told me that working at a toll booth is the easiest job that is possible to have. He even told me that it is his dream job. I was surprised because I think it is the hardest job ever—it is absolutely monotonous. I believe that it is similar to working on an assembly line. It is cool that all you need to do is to screw a cap on the toothpaste, but it is cool only until you realize that you need to work for another seven hours and fifty-five minutes. I am not a communist, but I understand why blue-collar workers get much more higher salary than white-collar workers in the socialist countries. In TOLL BOOTH, I was surprised how the main character found a way to entertain himself during his monotonous work. Actually, this film made me realize that even while sitting at the toll booth located on an empty road, you can do a lot of stuff: read books, listen to the radio, wait a for car being driven by the person you’re in love with…

#3 GODS/DIOSES (dir. Josué Méndez, 2008, Peru) – Global Lens 2010

When I travel, I like to sleep in nature rather than in hotels, houses and so on. For instance, when I sail on a yacht, I prefer to sleep on the deck rather than in the narrow cabin. When I am on the coast, I’d rather sleep on a hammock stretched between two palm trees than in a house or hotel. Even a house’s roof is a better place for me to sleep than an open balcony if I am in the city. But what is one to do if some tropical rain starts or the weather outside is cold? After watching the film GODS, I found that it is possible to enjoy nature from the comfort of your own home. Besides that, it was funny to follow how a new young wife of a rich husband tried to adapt to the rules of the upperclass society. If her new friends (wives of other rich husbands) talked about the Bible, then she spent a lot of time learning about this “very important” topic on her own so that she could keep the conversation going next time. The thing is, the next time the topic of conversation was plants, which the young wife then made an effort to learn about. Is it dramatically funny?

#2 SHIRLEY ADAMS (dir. Oliver Hermanus, 2009, South Africa) – Global Lens 2010

This South African film will keep your attention just because of the lead actress’ amazing acting.  Her character does not have enough money to care for her ill son. She needs to steal food from the supermarket. She needs to get help from volunteers. She’s willing to do everything for her son except lose her dignity in front of him.

Besides the storyline of the mother in this film, I found it interesting to follow how a paralyzed boy falls in love for the first time, with a woman who visited him in order to help him. I believe that it is natural: a lonely teenage boy spends 100% of his time at home with his old mother, then suddenly, a young adult female volunteer comes to visit him. Of course he’d fall in love. In other words, a female version of Friday visits Robinson Crusoe. I love this kind of situation, when people start to behave with animal instincts rather than as humans.

#1 A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT (dir. Arsen Anton Ostojic, 2004, Croatia) – Global Lens 2007

Do you remember a guy, who sang a rap song “Gangster’s Paradise,” a remake of Steve Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise”? Yes, his name is Coolio. He plays a lead role in this Croatian—not American—film. Coolio’s character deals with Croatians during a New Year’s Eve full of sex, drugs, guns and music.

This is my favorite film among GFI films that I had a chance to watch. This film covers three parallel stories, which intersect in the film in different ways. The film’s structure is the main reason why I liked it. Andrew deWaard called this type of film a “web-of-life” film: “Utilizing the web-of-life plotline creates an expectation within the viewer for unforeseen relations and causal connections among the film’s disparate characters.” The relationships between the main characters are very indirect in A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT, making the film more elegant than other web-of-life films like 11:14 or films by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Honorable Mention:

In addition to my Top 5, I want to also mention two films. The first one is BUFFALO BOY/MUA LEN TRAU (dir. Nguyen-Vô Nghiem-Minh, Vietnam, 2004) – Global Lens 2005, which not only opened a door to GFI for me—I saw this film on Netflix before I even knew what GFI was—but also exposed me to the flooded areas of Vietnam. The second film is NOTHING MORE/NADA+ (dir. Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, Cuba, 2001) – Global Lens 2004, which I want to mention just because it is 100% funny and absolutely different from the rest of the hundreds of thousands of feature films in the world. It is really cool to watch funny and unique films, which do not make a temporary anesthesia of one’s brain, but which make a permanent cultural shot by Cuban or some other foreign filmmakers!

Enjoy watching any of these GFI films. I bet my taste will not let you down!

Pavel Lozin, in his own words: I was born in the sunny summer day in Ukraine, which was a part of USSR at that time. Later, my fate put me in Moscow, Russia, where I spent the major part of my life. No matter that my teachers very rarely saw me in high school, I finished it and I was also admitted to Bauman Moscow State Technical University. At the last moment, I changed my plans and decided to move to the United States to study film. I always had a dream to be a film director. Even when I was 7 years old, I already made some film experiments. As a result, I graduated from University of California (Irvine) with a Film & Media major and Women’s Studies minor. At the same time, I had did part-time work at different software companies as a release and QA engineer.

Right now, I am a slacker, who has visited more than 40 countries around the world. Ironically, Russia is the only country that I can’t visit till I am 28 years old because of the mandatory military service. I make short films, write screenplays, read books and watch foreign films every day.

Hopefully, my background will help me reach my dream of becoming a film director.

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