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EL Cine

The foreign film manifesto

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As Steven Kellman rightfully says, San Antonio is a hellhole for foreign films. The studios (or whoever the jerk is who decides what we can and can't see and when) will tell you — bullshit myth #1 — that "there is no market." But my take on "market studies" is the same as Steve Jobs': people don't know what they want until you give it to them (see Y Tu Mamá También, Como agua para chocolate, Cinema Paradiso, Amores Perros, etc.).

Bullshit myth #2: "People don't like silent flims." That's a lie almost as big as market studies and was debunked as soon as The Artist premiered.

"Nobody wanted to give [director] Michel [Hazanavicius] money for a silent film," The Artist co-star Bérénice Bejo told Argentina's Clarín. "Producers usually come from TV and [they] said no one would watch a silent film during dinner. But producer Claude Berri's son … [invested] money from his own pocket and that's how we started. … And we ended up filming in Hollywood."

None of the five nominated foreign films have been shown in San Antonio yet, but Iran's A Separation, originally scheduled to premiere in SA on February 17, will open on March 9, and Poland's In Darkness opens March 23. In addition, Israel's Footnote will premiere here on April 27. (You can see trailers for the five films nominated for the Academy's Best Foreign Film Oscar — Belgium's Bullhead, Canada's Monsieur Lazhar, Israel's Footnote, Poland's In Darkness, and A Separation — on the EL Cine blog at blogs.sacurrent.com.)

Are we so unsophisticated and air-headed that we're the only big city in America with no room for the best foreign films? Those who get it know that oftentimes the Best Foreign Film winner is the year's best film, period. Too expensive, risky, or complicated to locally screen new, Oscar-nominated foreign films? No problem: regularly screen quality films from the past. Despite our poor track record, there are mixed signals ahead.

Sign of no hope: When I asked a key person involved in the booking of films in San Antonio why we didn't see more foreign films here, the reply was, "What do you mean by foreign films?"

Signs of hope: The Bijou will screen the Oscar-nominated shorts February 10, and both the Thursday night series at King Court's Frankfurter Express and the monthly series at UTSA are already showing some foreign flicks, but we need more. A lot more. So all of you lovers of foreign films: unite! Get your richest and coolest movie-loving friend and start something soon. Like, tomorrow.

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