I’m an International TV Lover, Let Me Take You Around the World…

Yeah, that Prince song has been in my head for a few weeks now, as I become more and more entrenched in watching TV shows and movies that were produced in other countries outside the United States.

I believe that I’ve become so obsessed with international film and television due to the fact that the nation is still under quarantine due to COVID-19. Some may not be taking that seriously, but I am. I generally only go out when it is absolutely crucial and that is generally only once a month.

Because of this, I’ve had a lot of extra time to watch TV and I have done no traveling other than to visit my dad. I also now have five of the major streaming services–Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and HBOMax. That’s a lot of entertainment at my disposal, and though I watched all my favorite movies in the early months of COVID-19 in 2020, I got bored at some point a few months in and wanted to up the ante and see different people. Enter international television and film.

The first recommendation I received was from my dear friend Jenn. She wanted me to watch a show called Grand Hotel also known as Gran Hotel in its native Spain. I added it and watched the first episode, but then, my attention was pulled to the Mandalorian and I forgot completely about it. Jenn came back and recommended a show called Bonfire of Destiny, which is actually inspired by true events that occurred at a Paris bazaar. This one I actually completed and was just entranced. I loved it so much that I decided to go back to Grand Hotel and got sucked in immediately. It got so bad that every day I was sending Jenn messages on Voxer updating her on why I liked this character or hated this other one.  In the midst of watching it, I also started Duolingo to revisit my Spanish. I figured by watching the show and doing exercises, it would increase my vocabulary and my ease in understanding.

That ended up leading me down a Spanish TV and film wormhole in which I watched A Pesar de Todo (Despite Everything), Perdiendo el Norte (Off Course), Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls), MonarcaValeriaVelvet and Velvet Coleccion (Velvet Collection) amongst other shows. I moved on to Atiye (The Gift), a Turkish television thriller in which a female painter unlocks mysteries about her ancestry through a symbol that was discovered at an archaelogical site and that she’s been painting since she was a child. Next up was Summertime, an Italian show in which a young Black Italian takes centerstage as the main lead in a love story that doesn’t put her being Black at the forefront of its message. She just is and she’s accepted for who she is. It is to Black women what To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was to Asian women. 

Then, shortly after the holiday season, I entered K-drama land with Crash Landing On You, and I’ve been deep into this wormhole ever since. I’ve watched Memories of the AlhambraSomething in the RainIt’s Okay Not to Be OkayTune In For LoveParasite, and I’m currently watching One Spring Night.

In each of these films and television shows, I’ve learned more about me. I’ve learned that I like a lot more than I knew I did, and that I have the patience to stay with an engaging story no matter if it is told in my native tongue. I have learned that I want to visit some of the places I’ve seen in these movies because they are beautiful. I have also learned that I enjoy seeing other countries not through the skewed lens of US gaze, but on what it sees as a compelling story.

I can hear the collective groans as you remind me that most of the stories I have seen have no basis in reality and are made to make women swoon and ooooh and aaaah over the handsome lead actor or the breathtakingly beautiful lead actress. However, in spite of that, the stories in many cases are relatable for one reason or another. They speak to relationships we’ve all experienced, be it with parents, siblings, friends and love interests and that is what hooks me every time. That and my curiosity to see what I don’t know and let me tell you that when it comes to international television and film, there was a lot that I did not know.

Back in the day, when Blockbuster was in every major city, I oftentimes skipped the foreign film section because who wanted to read subtitles. However, I can say today that there are many films that I can point to today that were not US produced, and that I am a better person for watching these movies. They have made accessible and relatable to me cultures that I have only known through the US gaze. They have provided insight into how others live in other parts of the world and how similar we are and the differences that make us unique. I look forward to diving into more and I encourage you to dive in to. You never know what you will learn and what you will love.

You may even be like me and start learning Korean and brushing up on your Spanish on Duolingo in anticipation of the day when you can finally travel to visit the places you’d only seen through the TV screen.

Do you have a favorite international TV show or film? Is there an international TV show or film that you are currently obsessed with? Let me know in the comments below.