How poorly the big distribution brings movies from all over the world to theaters, focusing almost exclusively on the already well-known names that guarantee the box office.
For this reason, today, I want to explore with you this immense universe of which most of you have absolutely no knowledge.
Let us, therefore, look at 12 movies from 12 different countries, practically one per month, for this 2022 that is now coming to an end.
An extensive catalog in which I have tried to include every cinematic genre, from comedy to horror, social drama and historical reconstruction, or even fast-paced action and introspective science fiction.
Let’s cut to the chase because we really have a lot to talk about today, and I hope one of this particular advent calendar’s movies will be to your liking.
Table of contents
The Manager (2022)
Let’s start with a movie perfect for a trip around the world, especially now that the World Cup is happening in Qatar.
Indeed, the story is about an Argentina television manufacturing company during the qualifiers for the World Cup of 2018 in Russia.
The marketing head is struggling badly since he is about to be fired along with his entire team, the money for his ex-wife and son is never enough, and he starts having severe heart problems.
Cornered by a ruthless woman in the administration, the manager finds an idea to play it all out with, knowing he can only win big or resign himself to going home in his underwear.
His new advertising campaign focuses precisely on Argentina’s matches, offering a full refund to everyone who buys a television if the beloved national team fails to qualify.
Of course, the owners are initially enthusiastic about the idea, as the group opponents are Croatia, Nigeria, and Iceland, and therefore seems like an extremely easy hurdle to overcome.
This idea is immensely successful, and within a few weeks, the company sells more than 50,000 screens at 50 inches, yet unfortunately, the Argentina of Messi gets off to a terrible start in the first few games.
Facing a potential multimillion-dollar refund to their customers, the owners would like to back out; however, the brave manager decides to raise the bar by putting another 200,000 TVs on the market, which immediately sold out.
The Manager is an entertaining culture clash between the old boomers versus the new social generation, such as the protagonist’s son.
In reality, of course, it is never really a clash but rather a slow inclusion, enduring our mutual flaws while admitting that we are, after all, only human beings.
From a World Level story, we now switch to a small sci-fi movie revolving only around a small family.
The main character is a woman who wakes up in an unfamiliar room without a memory of who she is or how she got to that strange place.
Before her, there is a pen on a bare table, while a speaker’s voice orders to move it, although she is tied to a chair.
Moreover, the voice warns her that if she does not obey immediately, her little girl will pay the consequences.
She tries to accomplish the numerous tasks one after another, ending up stunned by an electric shock that leaves her unconscious.
But when these trials prove impossible, she discovers that she can move objects with her thoughts.
Then she realizes that the voice is trying to train her to use this ability, and she wakes up again to find herself confronted by a man who claims to be her husband.
Slowly she begins to recall their life together, from the initial romantic idyll to his crises and drinking problems.
But deep in her memory, she hides the critical episode in her life that brought her to that strange place at that very moment.
Control is a small Canadian film that has gone unnoticed by theatrical and wider streaming distribution.
Nevertheless, director James Mark makes the most of his special effects skills by bringing forth some spectacular telekinesis and combat sequences.
A remarkable achievement considering the poor budget and only actors Sara Mitich and George Tchortov in a handful of rooms with almost bare interiors.
If you can find it online, you may find a different kind of superpower story than usual, of which who knows if we will ever see a sequel.
A director the mainstream distribution has erased from its notebooks is John Woo, a creator of some of the world’s most popular action movies.
With his Hollywood phase over with the amusing Paycheck in 2003, the filmmaker has returned to his beloved Hong Kong but has by no means stopped making cinema.
After some excellent historical/adventurous movies, such as Red Cliff and Reign of Assassins, in 2017, he returned to his favorite genre with Manhunt, an action/thriller similar to 1993 The Fugitive.
Obviously, compared to the movie starring Harrison Ford, there are many more fights, shootouts, and chases within the Chinese director’s appreciated roguelike style.
In this case, the man on the run is Zhang Hanyu, a rampant lawyer who spends the night with a beautiful stranger he just met in a hotel.
Unfortunately, the following day he wakes up next to her dead body while the police break down the door and arrest him, already sure of his guilt.
When he realizes some of these cops were paid to kill him, the man breaks free and begins a long game of hide-and-seek among the crowded streets of Osaka.
Besides the corrupt officers, two charming female assassins are on his trail, paid by a multinational pharmaceutical company to silence him for good.
Indeed, the company is concerned that he reveals the truth about an experimental medicine they produce, using nameless, homeless people as guinea pigs.
As often happens with John Woo, the plot sometimes defies the laws of physics and probability. Yet, I dare anyone not to have maddening fun with the merry-go-round of action sequences the director brings to the table.
So let’s hope that luck will always keep him healthy for us and that he will one day return to the COMING SOON of Western movie trailers.
The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil (2019)
Contrary to what I have said, the West does not always give a damn about great Eastern film talent.
Indeed producing this highly entertaining South Korean action movie is Sylvester Stallone financing Lee Won-tae‘s excellent directorial and screenplay work.
The story begins on Seoul’s dark and dirty streets, where a serial killer, played by Kim Sung-kyu, prowls at night, luring his victims by rear-ending them with his car.
Among the police, no one connects these murders, believing them as simple random assaults, yet policeman Kim Mu-yeol quickly suspects there may be the same hand behind them.
This madman could then get away with it unless he made the grave mistake of trying to kill Ma Dong-seok‘s character, one of the city’s most dangerous crime bosses.
Obviously pissed off by the attack, the boss unleashes his hounds to scour every corner of the city and find the serial killer at any cost.
Neither the cop nor these criminals can achieve much, so they join forces despite their profound contempt for each other.
As crazy as it sounds, it seems that this was a real episode that actually happened in Seoul in 2005, giving Lee Won-tae the proper creative freedom to fictionalize the events into an action thriller.
The relationship dynamic between the boss and the cop is exceptional, going from hatred to forced cooperation all the way to friendship and respect in the courageous final act in court against this terrible murdering madman.
Needless to say, the action scene level is always years ahead of the West, with few exceptions, such as the famous John Wick saga.
Who knows, maybe that’s why they don’t want to distribute them; otherwise, many Western directors should get off their asses and really learn their job.
Another movie, another part of the world, with another woman waking up around an unfamiliar place with no memory of what happened.
The protagonist this time is the beautiful Mélanie Laurent, an actress who rose to popularity playing the avenging Jewess in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds.
Moreover, the French star further showed her directorial prowess with the thrilling crime/romance Galveston.
In this case, she is instead a woman waking up bundled inside bandages, in a capsule hermetically sealed from the outside.
As mentioned, she does not remember who she is or how she got there, although an electronic voice warns her the oxygen is rapidly running out.
Unsuccessfully she tries to force the lid off that high-tech coffin while the computer attempts to sedate her back to sleep.
After much effort, she finally convinces the system to call the police, who claim they cannot help her unless they know where she is.
The voices responding, however, do not convince her at all, believing that these people are lying for some reason.
Indeed, she cannot know that the outside world is almost entirely decimated by a deadly disease, making these capsules the only remaining survival for humanity.
After his compelling debut with High Tension, Alexandre Aja finally returns to directing a decent movie, which I, not surprisingly, recommended among the most traumatizing horror to watch.
The whole story takes place in the confining space of this capsule, apart from a few flashbacks of the protagonist, where the director handles quite well the few camera movements this location allows him.
Yet Mélanie Laurent‘s convincing performance and the intriguing story revealed bit by bit work perfectly for a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller with the usual elegance of French cinema.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Let’s change genres and countries completely with a movie transporting us back to the distant days when the Nazi menace began sowing terror around the world.
The protagonist of this story is Prince Albert of England, father of the recently deceased Elizabeth II, in those days about to succeed the gravely ill King George V to the throne.
However, because of the terrible stutter preventing him from speaking in public, his brother, crowned King Edward VIII, is instead appointed as the successor.
So, on the advice of his beloved wife, Elizabeth, the prince turned to an expert in speech problems, used to helping veterans returning traumatized from war.
After initial suspicion, a great relationship of trust and friendship develops between the two men while Europe slips increasingly under the evil shadow of the swastika.
His brother then intends to marry a German, something the parliament cannot accept, thus deciding to dethrone and finally crown him as George VI.
Unfortunately, his inauguration as ruler coincided with the Nazi invasion of Poland, so it became imperative for the new king to speak with firm confidence to the frightened nation.
At that point, George VI must face his stammering fear of words, beginning with the first of many radio speeches marking the bleak years of World War II.
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are the great leads in this movie, respectively, king and faithful aide who must overcome the entire kingdom’s distrust.
Equally good is the beautiful Helena Bonham Carter as his faithful and unwavering wife and Guy Pearce as his swaggering and confident brother.
I usually do not like stories of wealth and nobility very much, yet in this case, the humanity and friendliness of the characters make all the difference.
Sea Fever (2019)
With the next movie, we move not far from England, sailing on a boat along Ireland’s mysterious and fascinating coast.
On board, of course, are some skilled sea veterans waiting to take the score of the year since it is the season when the fishing is most prosperous.
Along with them embarks a young girl, a student wishing to complete her research on the strange underwater fauna of those millennia-old places.
Confident more than they should be, the crew goes against their captain’s orders venturing into an area the coast guard advised them to avoid.
Indeed, as soon as they enter that desolate sea region, the ship runs aground against something invisible on the bottom, and they are stranded.
Unfortunately, these obstacles are just part of a much larger being, a gigantic octopus never seen before that bombards the hull with its tiny eggs.
Besides causing severe damage, these eggs also infect part of the crew with a blood disease that inevitably grows to total insanity.
Despite her young age, the student’s scientific knowledge alone can save them from certain death, as happened to other fishermen before them who never came back to recount it.
It is easy to draw comparisons between Sea Fever and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, both because of the marine (and underwater) setting and, of course, the incredible giant octopus in common with Jules Verne‘s classic.
Cinematically it all works remarkably well on the horror and mystery side, jamming perhaps in some lame explanations on the sci-fi part. Still, we basically don’t care much about that.
Whether believable or not, this tale is an exciting journey around the seas of a world forgotten by time, with the scientist Cinderella fighting this faceless monster with her bare hands, literally.
After this long series of cinematic steps around the world, we finally returned to my beloved Italy with a great crime movie that could have been more successful.
The main character is just what the title says: a man who cleans and cuts the fur of dogs in one of Rome’s poorest neighborhoods.
Like many living in this environment, he occasionally recurs to some baseness, such as helping some pushers by delivering drugs to make some extra money.
Until one of the most violent criminals in the area offers to help him rob his neighbor’s store by smashing through a wall and going through his own.
The robbery succeeds, but unfortunately, the poor guy gets the blame, ending up in jail for nearly a year while his supposed partner refuses to split the loot.
At that point, the mild-mannered dog sweeper decides he has had enough, so he sets up a simple but effective plan to lure him into a trap and take revenge on the violent thug who ruined his life.
Matteo Garrone is undoubtedly one of the most significant current talents in Italian cinema, who had his moment of fame only after the celebrated Gomorrah.
Yet the director continues to demonstrate his prowess with other genres besides crime/thriller, for example, the episodic fantasy Tale of Tales.
Even more recent is the remake of Pinocchio, again starring Roberto Benigni though this time as Geppetto.
In this case, we have instead a weak and cowardly, almost pathetic anti-hero who has his revenge against injustice, which, however, does not bring him happiness or wealth.
However, the story’s strength is precisely in its realism; describing that difficult part of Italy that no one ever wants to remember.
Salt and fire (2016)
From one of the best Italians in the current cinematographic scene, we move on to a German filmmaker who started his career in distant and turbulent 1968.
Over all these years, Werner Herzog directed countless movies and significantly appreciated documentaries around the world.
Salt and Fire is one of his latest works combining intelligence and style, his passion for narrative with a search for our society’s most uncomfortable realities.
It all begins with the construction of a large dam in Bolivia, officially supposed to help farmers irrigate their fields, yet in reality, for the exclusive use of a powerful consortium of multinational companies.
Years later, some scientists traveled to the site to assess the environmental damage. Still, they are immediately kidnapped and segregated in the vast salt desert at the country’s center.
Among them is a woman separated from the rest of the group and locked in a hut along with two completely blind children.
With no chance to escape, she begins to care for these unfortunate creatures, counting the increasingly scarce food and water they have left before the end.
However, when their captor finally appears at the door, everything becomes clear as the dazzling dead white expanse of that barren land, killed by the so-called civilized world in the name of industrial progress.
I don’t deny taking a risk by recommending this movie, which was hated and debased virtually unanimously by audiences and critics around the world.
Instead, Werner Herzog crafts a gem without sets, costumes, or an actual script amid a dying ecosystem.
It all rests on the broad shoulders of two stars like Veronica Ferres and Michael Shannon, along with a direction that unhesitatingly makes you think about how our planet is reduced.
Dead Snow (2009)
From Bolivia’s white salt desert, we rotate the axis around the world of cinematic imagination to the immaculate white snows of Norway with a hilarious horror movie.
It all starts cheerfully with a carload of friends on their way to a remote mountain cabin to spend a weekend of alcohol, drugs, and lots of sex with some girls.
Unfortunately, as we all know, in this type of horror slasher, horny teenagers always come to a dreadful end.
Indeed, this partying bunch is unaware of the mountain’s dark past, besieged by a platoon of ruthless Nazis during the war.
After subjecting the local citizens to their harassment for many days, they eventually revolted, fighting back the invaders and forcing them to flee into the forest.
However, before escaping, the Nazis stole all their gold from them, unaware that an ancient and terrible curse hung over them.
Although decades have passed since the war ended, these soldiers still roam the mountain, now reduced to cannibal zombies in their swollen uniforms.
Therefore, the boys’ merry trip soon becomes a struggle to survive against an invincible enemy because already dead and, therefore, impossible to kill.
Certainly, Tommy Wirkola does not reinvent the horror wheel, though he exploits all tricks and genre stereotypes, creating a delightful and compelling merry-go-round of carnage.
Therefore, the characters always make the stupidest choices leading them to certain death with an amusing irony to temper the gallons of blood flowing on the screen.
Of course, we are talking about a low-budget movie, yet the handmade special effects deliver better than CGI, which is often harmful in such cases.
So we do not demand the visual quality of the Avengers saga, just the unbridled fun of the good old Evil Dead in a Norwegian adaptation.
We still remain in a cold climate, but instead of snow, we have millennial ice in the far northwest of Russia, in Murmansk.
In a secret laboratory far below the surface, an accident happens, and some workers and researchers disappear into the facility’s lower levels.
So the army sends a platoon of soldiers, aided by a doctor expert in epidemiology, to investigate what appears to be an abnormal bacterial infection.
As soon as they land, they are greeted by a madman who runs at them, threatening them with a hand grenade, then blowing himself up and severely damaging their helicopter.
The research chief says that, sadly, it is not the only case of his men’s madness, and after the long elevator descent, he takes them to the remote abysses of the laboratory.
However, shortly afterward, the scientist stuns all the soldiers and the doctor with gas, blocking every exit behind them.
The group then discovers that workers have unearthed an unknown species of mold during the excavation, whose spores drive people mad and mutate them into aggressive and resistant creatures.
Thus begins a race against time to prevent this mold from getting out and spreading unchecked to the rest of the world.
In recent years there have been many Russian-made movies finally at the level of the rest of the world competition.
Indeed, although little publicized, several small gems have come out, such as Sputnik, The Blackout, or the entertaining Guardians, practically the Soviet version of the Avengers.
Arseny Syuhin and Sergey Torchilin pass their first directorial experience with flying colors, creating an intriguing and claustrophobic sci-fi horror.
Let us hope that the current political condition does not undermine the development of Russian cinema, which finally seems to have returned in the right direction.
The Last Days (2013)
We conclude with another horror focused on a terrible disease, this time psychological, set in the heart of Spain, in Barcelona.
The protagonist is a young programmer forced to work grueling shifts on the security of a new application whose market launch is imminent.
Despite disagreeing with his bosses’ strategic choices, he decides to play along after learning rumors that many layoffs are on the way.
However, soon none of that matters because a mysterious agoraphobia is spreading worldwide.
People are suddenly afraid to go outside, like some of his colleagues who no longer want to leave the office.
When security forcibly throws them out, they die horribly, writhing in panic in the middle of the street.
Soon realizing that he too suffers from this phobia, he gets stuck in the building together with his coworkers for months.
So they start digging a tunnel into the subway, thus finally being able to return to their homes without going outside.
Unfortunately, he must stay with one of the chiefs who wanted to fire him, needing each other to finally reunite with their loved ones.
Indeed, in all that time, the city sunk into utter anarchy, with citizens killing for something to eat or a safe haven to hide.
David and Àlex Pastor write and direct a remarkably small and personal post-apocalyptic story, keeping the tension high until the surprisingly optimistic ending.
So forget about seeing a tourist version of Barcelona because every corner of the city hides a threat or danger to overcome.
Indeed, this strange 2013 movie predicted the future lockdown for COVID, which would confine us all indoors for months around the world.