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Ten Wonders of World Cinema You Should Check Out During Lockdown

Zia counts down ten of her favourite films that you should be streaming

While the world is locked down the idea of travelling is nothing but a far-flung dream. Fortunately, with streaming sites and rentals at our fingertips, we can still travel the world without leaving the comfort and safety of our own home. Open your minds, look past the subtitles, and delve into the colourful and thrilling wonders of world cinema while we quarantine.

Chungking Express

1994, Director: Wong Kar-wai

Beneath the fluorescent lights of downtown Hong Kong, two stories run in parallel following a pair of lovesick cops who each encounter a woman who changes their lives.  

This romance takes place in the chaotic world of Chungking Mansions (from which the film gets its name). Poignant and funny, Chungking Express paints a crushingly real yet relatable portrait of urban love. Not only is the film beautifully shot but it also a unique exploration of another layer of Hong Kong that is seldom seen.

Millennium Actress

2001, Director: Satoshi Kon

A documentary filmmaker and his cameraman interview an aging legendary actress who lived and loved during turbulent 20th Century Japan.

Directed by the father of surrealism, Satoshi Kon, Millennium Actress is a time defying love story epic that melds dreams and reality in a heart-breaking and incredible story of a woman who pursues acting to enable her to find her lost love. The colours and aesthetic of the film are beautiful and the poeticism of the story resonates with you long after watching it. For those who just want to immerse themselves in the bygone eras of Japan, this is a film that can successfully transport you into the past.


2019, Director: Mati Diop

A group of construction workers in Dakar go to sea to find a better life in Europe. The women left behind must deal with the loss of their partners and try to carve out their own lives in Senegal.

This is a refreshingly unique and pertinent movie. The film goes in surprising directions, from drama to searing political commentary, to coming of age, to horror.  The film gives voice to a section of society that has remained voiceless in the media: those left behind by the migrants who take to the sea, and follows the lives of complex and independent young women who grow up in the slums of Dakar.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

2016, Director: Taika Waititi

An unruly teen and his adopted ‘uncle’ set out into the New Zealand wilderness pursued by the police.  

Director Taika Waititi, most well-known for his film Thor, began his career directing whimsical films about eccentric characters living on the edge of New Zealand society. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is perhaps the best example of Waititi’s talent for these kinds of stories. It is funny, emotional, and a perfect bit of escapism to lose yourself in the wacky Kiwi world Waititi creates.

I Am Not a Witch

2017, Director: Rungano Nyoni

A young girl is accused of being a witch and exiled to a camp of witches.

I am Not A Witch is a dark tale steeped in magical realism. This is a story about female autonomy and the injustice of rumour and blame. The main character, Shula, is a magnetic yet silent presence who is forced into a travelling camp of witches who are all imprisoned by a reel of ribbon that they must wear to keep them from flying away.  The contrast between the modern world and this old belief is almost as stark as the parched landscape that is depicted within this powerful film.


2001, Director:  Jean Pierre-Jeunet

An eccentric and lonely woman decides to help people she encounters.

Amélie is one of the most popular foreign language films to date thanks to its delightful depiction of Parisian life and the quirky charm of its main character. It is set in fairytale Montmartre and is the perfect film to soak in the beauty of Paris that exists outside of time and reality.

Y Tu Mamá También

2001, Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Two best friends and an older woman set off on a road trip across Mexico. Along the way they learn a thing or two about adulthood, themselves, and each other against the backdrop of a turbulent and changing Mexico.

Y Tu Mama Tambien is a road trip movie unlike any other. Sure, it has the sex and the humour of a typical road trip film, but it also has a remarkable understanding of human behaviour and relationships which change and grow. It balances humour with social commentary and offers a fresh look at urban and rural Mexico, the likes of which haven’t often been seen in film.


2019, Director: Bong Joon-ho

The Kim family lie and cheat their way into the home of the wealthy Parks.

This film has revitalised interest in world cinema and especially the often-overlooked gems that South Korea has gifted to the world over the years.  Everything about this film could be analysed and unpicked because each aspect, from the impressive cinematography, the rhythmic editing, and the standout performances of the cast, all serve to tell a multifaceted story that demands multiple viewings. Parasite is a genre-bending masterpiece that gives us insight into the class issues of modern South Korea.

My Brilliant Friend

2018, Director: Saverio Costanzo, Alice Rohrwacher

This is a TV series but it was screened in a cinema so… let’s go with it.

My Brilliant Friend is a period coming-of-age drama which spans the decades of two friends and their complicated, often competitive, friendship.

It brings Naples to life in a sumptuous period drama. The colours are rich, the costumes are to die for, and the old and elegant grandeur of Naples is bought to the screen in a splendid exploration of Italy. The main friendship at the heart of the series and the various families and factions who have a part to play in the narrative are compelling and almost Game of Thrones-esque in scope and complexity.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

2019, Director: Céline Sciamma

A female painter is hired to paint the wedding portrait of a young woman.

If you want to see a beautifully shot visual painting of isolated Brittany, then this is the film for you.  If you want to see a pure and nuanced romance unfurl within a 18th century period setting, I would also encourage you to watch this. The film truly lives up to the hype as a piece of cinematic poetry.

What’s missing from this list? Let us know in the comments.