Photo courtesy of AP Images
I confess, I am a huge film buff! I watch anything that is either intentionally or unintentionally entertaining. I subscribe to Netflix and, when given the time, watch movies of all genres: action, comedy, drama, romance, horror, documentaries, mockumentaries and more. Through the past five years, independent of my lifelong exposure to Hollywood, Bollywood and regional Indian films, I have had the opportunity to explore my passion for foreign cinema.
My love for traveling and learning about other cultures has propelled me toward foreign cinema. Movies from around the world satisfy my thirst to explore every corner of the world, including places which I could not even dream of visiting. They have broadened my horizons and encouraged me to think outside of the box, while increasing my awareness and acceptance of ideas and beliefs from other cultures. Moreover, watching foreign films has enabled me to reevaluate any preconceived notions or stereotypes I might have had of other cultures thanks to my American background.
For instance, long ago, back when people drove to video rental stores to find movies, I browsed the foreign section of Hollywood Video to search for a movie from a country to which I had no previous exposure. I found a Mongolian film entitled My Beautiful Jinjiimaa and, impressed by the plot description on the DVD, I decided to rent out the movie.
A moving film shot in the luscious Mongolian steppe in negative 22 degrees Celsius weather, My Beautiful Jinjimaa is about a deaf woman, Jinjimaa, and her relationship with her handicapped husband and baby daughter living in rural Mongolia who are repeatedly separated under tragic circumstances and sacrifice their own lives for one another. Jinjiimaa experienced sexual assault due to local political issues and shoots (but does not kill) her perpetrator in self-defense. Her husband takes the blame for the crime and serves his prison sentence for six years. After the family reunites, Jinjiimaa has the opportunity to undergo surgery for her hearing impairment. However, circumstances force her to believe that her husband and daughter are dead when she returns from the operation, although they are, in fact, alive. Whether or not Jinjiimaa will unite again with the rest of her family forms the rest of the plot.
After watching the movie, I was absolutely impressed with the landscape and culture of Mongolia, to the extent that I would definitely like to visit the country in the future. No offense to anyone who is Mongolian, but until I watched the film, I had never even thought that Mongolia produced cinema, yet I was blown away by the fact that the Mongolians had produced a movie that was so intense and incredibly real. When I mentally pictured Mongolia before watching the film, I only thought of a desolate, snowy grassland with horses. Giving My Beautiful Jinjiimaa a chance helped me to break that stereotype and expand my knowledge about the unfamiliar Mongolian culture.
Relative to other genres of films, I feel that foreign dramas are the most personally fulfilling movies, as they typically communicate meaningful messages and themes in such depth. In fact, devoid of pretense and phoniness, they transcend many of the similar yet superficial films made in Hollywood. I absolutely love Hollywood films, and by no means do I intend to disparage them but the relative realism and humanism present in foreign movies is a missing element.
I recently rented the film out via Netflix during Spring Break and watched the movie for the second time. I realized how wonderfully made the film was, in terms of cinematography, music, acting and plot, and decided that I absolutely must write about the film. I highly encourage all my readers to step out of their comfort zone: perhaps watch a film from a different country or two with your friends!