From Kramer to Kieslowski, Micheaux to Moore, cinema has long been used as an instrument of social change. This year’s foreign-language slate is rife with films whose influence extends far beyond theaters.
Days of Glory (Algeria)
Big-budget film detailing French discrimination toward Algerian soldiers who fought alongside the Allies in WWII prompted French President Jacques Chirac to make reparations to surviving fighters.
Rang De Basanti (India)
The second-highest-grossing Bollywood movie of the past decade, it has been credited with a resurgence in new-generation political activism. Film’s closing protest scene has since been replicated in real life, with Indian students staging massive nationwide protests against corruption.
Musical road movie, in which post-civil-war reconciliation is the predominant subtext, was a hit across Lebanon’s disparate religious and cultural groups. The summer’s conflict with Israel (which destroyed many locations featured in the film) made the themes of national unity all the more pertinent.
9th Company (Russia)
Applying gritty realism to the story of a Russian platoon in Afghanistan, pic has created a regional blockbuster out of a once-taboo topic, even earning praise from President Vladimir Putin.