My love for Letterboxd isn't a mystery. I signed up almost at the beginning and have been on the platform ever since. It's a beautiful community and when they introduced stats, I fell even deeper in love.
As per my watching history, I have seen films from 49 countries. However, if I look at this closely, it is not an accurate representation. For example, Letterboxd says I've seen 5 films produced in the UAE. The key word here is produced. All the 5 films are only produced/shot in the UAE. They tell me nothing about culture of that country, nor are they a story about people who live there.
While diving into my reading history, as I went through the data, one thing was very clear in the media I consume. It comes from a small set of countries. The number is already small for films, but is shockingly small for books.
So in order to consume more diverse media, I came up with an Around the World challenge. I will be doing this for both films and books. This post deals with films so let's dive in!
(Unlike random challenges on social media, this is going to be an actual challenge to complete)
The challenge is to watch a film from every country in the world. The core objective is to watch films that are representative of that country - so, preferably shot/written by a local crew, or about experiences the people of that country go through every day. Hopefully by the end of this I would've lived a hundred lives and experienced a hundred perspectives.
However, making the list would not be easy. The films had to be available for me to stream in India. There was no way I was going to be able to legally see all the films from all countries. So I set some fallback rules when the main criteria could not be met. The rules are below - if one line is not matched, I move to the one below it:
- Shot/Written by locals, preferably in their language
- Documentary/Short Film about the country, shot/written by locals
- Film/Documentary/Short Film about the country, but not shot/written by locals
- If all else fails, it has to be majorly shot in that country
Armed with these criteria, I set out on Letterboxd to make the list. I first filtered by country, then by those available to stream in India, and sorted by ratings. The ratings began as a personal preference because I didn't want to end up watching 100 bad films. However as I went through the list, almost all the highly rated ones were war, crime, slow dramas or just super serious movies in general. This wasn't great because life isn't all war and crime. Partially through the list, I turned off the sort and picked something I'd enjoy watching.
This was critical because now my list became diverse. I ended up with films covering multiple genres (there's a vampire film in there somewhere) tackling a varied range of human emotion and life experiences.
There are stories about a Dominican baseball pitcher and a team of Iraqi basketball players, about two Hungarian people who see the exact same dream every night and two Israeli criminals who become philanthropists when they have a brush with death, about a child from Guinea who dreams of becoming a football player and a paralysed 25-year-old from Chad who dreams of becoming a dancer. I'm pretty happy about the list and very excited to begin!
While this started out about countries, I've taken some liberties. For example, Hong Kong is not a city, but has a HUGE film industry and I'd be remiss not to add it in.
I know the internet gets a bad rep but it is also extremely empowering. Imagine doing this even 10 years back and it would have been a nightmare. The only reason I have an actual shot at completing this challenge is because of the infrastructure we have the privilege of accessing at this point in time.
The film I am most excited to watch? This film from Turkey:
"A slick young Turk kidnapped by extraterrestrials shows his great « humanitarian spirit » by outwitting the evil commander-in-chief of the planet of G.O.R.A.".The list in full can be found on Letterboxd or can be seen below. Wish me luck!