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4 international films, television series that break cultural barriers

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DECEMBER 01, 2022

Art takes no singular form or language, and the best films are often ones we haven’t seen. There is something alluring about familiar messages spoken with an unfamiliar tongue — something comforting about exploring foreign landscapes from one’s couch.

From psychological French films to slick Korean dramas, there is simply no room for boredom when films and television shows spanning the whole globe are on your to-watch list.

With Hollywood on the backburner, here are four international films and television shows that deserve a place in the limelight. 

“Blood, Sex & Royalty”

In this new Netflix docuseries directed by James Bryce, the stories behind the most prolific names in the history of the British monarchy are brought to life in dramatic, humorous fashion. 

Reminiscent of Hulu’s “The Great,” “Blood, Sex & Royalty” balances England’s history on one hand and wit on the other. The first three episodes follow a young Anne Boleyn (Amy James-Kelly) and her rise in the French court as she draws the attention of the infamous Henry VIII (Max Parker).

Interpolated with clips of historians discussing the lives of the intriguing and elusive Boleyn as well as other monarchs, the docuseries achieves a rare connection with the audience. By tempering vulgar scenes with analyses of historical truth, “Blood, Sex & Royalty” humanizes these figures on a level that is seldom achieved with comedy. The series also offers a glimpse into often taboo topics of the mighty monarchy, balancing the proper with the scandalous, and the royal with the risque. Kings and queens are only humans, after all. For the hot girl history buffs, this is the series for you.

“Love and Leashes”

While “Fifty Shades of Gray” may have lit the path for BDSM romantic dramas, “Love and Leashes” picks up the baton without skipping a beat. Starring Seohyun from the K-pop girl group Blackpink and Lee Jun-young of K-pop boyband U-KISS, this Korean drama film explores a sexual relationship between two coworkers. 

While the film stays true to its romantic comedy genre — it’s hard not to giggle at Ji-hoo (Lee Jun-young) and Ji-woo (Seohyun) as they explore the dynamics of their newfound bond — “Love and Leashes” is daring. It dips its toes in tantalizing scenes of sexual tension, voyeuring the taboo topic of BDSM in Asian communities. However, before viewers can indulge in the couple’s chemistry, the film snaps back to comedic relief. While it leaves more to be desired in terms of exploring BDSM culture, the film makes up for it with pure charm. It’s fun, flirty and just a bit of a tease — if you’re into that kind of stuff.

“Vortex”

There is only one thing more terrifying than the human mind — the decay of it. French psychological drama film “Vortex” shines in its invocation of deep, unsettling fear without jumpscares and cheap frights. 

Winning six awards at six different international film festivals, “Vortex” is no stranger to critical acclaim. The film was inspired by director Gaspar Noé’s experience managing his mother’s dementia as well as his almost fatal brain hemorrhage. “Vortex” follows the lives of a couple (Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun) suffering from dementia as they descend into a life of heartache and senselessness. The film is unique in its use of a split-screen, depicting the consciousness of both the wife and the husband simultaneously, highlighting their conflicting realities. The result is a beautifully heartbreaking tale of losing one’s identity and, subsequently, their lives. 

“Blood and Water”

In the South African mystery series “Blood and Water,” high schooler Puleng (Ama Qamata) lives her life with a shadow at her heels. No matter how old she gets, she’s plagued by her sister Phume’s disappearance as part of a human trafficking scheme shortly after her birth. The last place she expected to see her sister was at a party in Cape Town, hosted by athlete Fikile Bhele (Khosi Ngema) who studies at the prestigious Parkhurst College. What follows is Puleng’s quest for the truth about her family. 

Though teen crime television dramas are one aplenty, “Blood and Water” stands out in its craft of complexity and suspense. Qamata’s performance as Puleng also captivates the audience in a memorable way, unlike the forgettable saturation of contemporary teen crime dramas. Indeed, the depiction of female friendships in this series is a refreshing representation of girlhood and trust amidst its mystery. If you want a break from the likes of “Riverdale,” try “Blood and Water” instead.

Contact Vicky Chong at 

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NOVEMBER 30, 2022