New Brazilian film proves foreign films are crucial for cultural and social awareness

Venice film festival winner “7 Prisoners” gives insight into modern-day slavery

“7 Prisoners,” a new Netflix original just released, has every element to prove why watching foreign films is beneficial. This Brazilian drama follows an 18-year-old boy as he and his fellow workers become imprisoned in São Paulo and the all too prevalent world of human trafficking. The protagonist Mateus begins to benefit from helping their captor and must determine whether or not he is willing to give up his morals to thrive in São Paulo. 

Contrary to mainstream films that are released in Hollywood, such as “Taken” and “Eden,” human trafficking that is devoid of a sexual nature is most prominent. Jonathan Todres, professor of law at Georgia State University, says Hollywood depicts Americans as heroes for sex-trafficked young girls, feeding into trafficking myths. Labor trafficking is a serious issue in Asia-pacific regions but does not gather media recognition in the U.S., as sex trafficking seems to be the trend with human trafficking-focused films. 

“An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor,” according to the Human Rights First Organization

Foreign films give audiences a chance to experience something other than their cultural mainstream beliefs or recycled stories. It is often that the main characters are ambiguous in their morality which is uncommon for Hollywood protagonists.

“7 Prisoners” deftly handles a character study of a young man witnessing and undergoing the psychological and physical trap that many poverty-stricken humans get caught in. The mental manipulation that this Brazilian film highlights, creates an uncomfortable environment for the audience who are trying to decipher whether or not they agree with the protagonist’s actions.

The Academy Award winning Korean film “Parasite” also fabricates a story revolving around characters with questionable actions and morals. This film follows an unemployed family who begins to leech off of the wealthy Park family, forgoing all upright principles in exchange for comfort and money. Not only did this foreign film address morality, but many cultural dynamics and social issues. 

As the first non-English language movie to win the Oscar for best picture, “Parasite” allowed non-Koreans to attain an inside look into the social divide between those on opposite sides of the socioeconomic spectrum. An issue that is not contained to Korea was able to gather acknowledgment from around the world due to the film’s popularity. 

Watching foreign films not only broaden worldviews and educate but are beneficial for tourism and supporting other countries that lack Hollywood’s money-making advantage. 

“Every time the movie launches in each nation, jjappaguri goes viral on social media,” said a spokesperson for instant noodle brand Jjapaghetti in regards to their product being eaten in “Parasite.” 

Sales for products and tourist locations can be boosted thanks to promotion in films. In addition, those looking to travel can remotely explore locations through the settings of a film. 

Now “7 Prisoners” captures multiple aspects of these elements benefiting viewers by showing cultural nuances, underexposed social issues, and unique filming. Becoming open to watching media that is not created in similar spaces allows for diversity in filming and actors to shine. 

A French physiological thriller “Caché” is another example of international film creating works of art that follow many different rules and stand as allegories for historical events and real-world problems. With an allude to collective guilt, a married French couple receives tapes of themselves which shows them under surveillance.

“A stationary camera is objective. A moving camera implies a subjective viewer, whether that viewer is a character, the director, or the audience,” said well-known film critic Roger Ebert. “Haneke uses the technique of making the camera ‘move’ in time, not space.”

The Austrian film director, Michael Haneke, won the Cannes Best Director award for “Caché” and is notable for his films depicting social issues and negative emotional responses in his characters. Through this film, Haneke ensures viewers learn metaphorically about the France government’s denial of the 1961 Seine River massacre. 

Haneke’s cinematography is confirmation that if movie-watchers limit themselves to domestic films they will miss out on the beauty and ingenuity of foreign films. Alexandre Moratto, Brazilian-American filmmaker of “7 Prisoners,” distinctively cuts his film without a satisfying finalization of the characters’ future or choices. 

An unconventional choice by Moratto allows for his message about the ambiguity and continuation of human trafficking to shine through. The unsated audience has the opportunity to interpret the director’s choices as a way to incite irritation at the corrupted labor system. 


Updated Dec. 8 at 12:15 p.m. to fi minor grammar errors and add a link.