Film series: Contemporary World Cinema

Student working on film projector

image from Invisible Life

Cornell Cinema regularly premieres award-winning new international films from the film festival circuit that otherwise wouldn’t screen in Ithaca, and this Spring is no exception. In addition, Cornell Cinema offers repeat screenings of some of the most well-known recent foreign language titles that had their first run at Cinemapolis in downtown Ithaca, films like Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, one of the most acclaimed films of 2019, and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain & Glory, both of which are among the ten films shortlisted for the Best International Feature Oscar (previously called the Best Foreign Language Film award).

The other films in this series are made by relative newcomers in comparison to Bong Joon-Ho and Almodóvar, like Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov, who was just 28 years old when his astonishing film Beanpole was released last year, and is now posed to be one of the five nominees for Best International Feature Oscar, a prediction we’re very confident making. Balagov was awarded Best Director in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section in May 2019 for this poetic and shattering film that explores in extraordinary fashion the psychological scars of war left upon two women in post-WWII Leningrad. 

Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid took home the top prize at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival for Synonyms. “The film, a faintly comedic, semi-autobiographical study of identity and the ambivalence of national belonging, tells the story of Yoav … and his struggle to reinvent himself as French” (Reuters) after moving to Paris from Israel.

Levan Akin is a Swedish-born filmmaker of Georgian descent whose third film, And Then We Danced, was Sweden’s Oscar submission for Best International Film. The Georgian-language film is the first LGBTQ+ film set in the country and debuted in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2019. Adapted from the popular 2015 novel The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha, Invisible Life, by Karim Aïnouz (Madame Sata) is a lush melodrama about two sisters separated in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. It was Brazil’s Oscar submission for Best International Film and is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film.

The only documentary in the series, Chinese Portrait, was made by acclaimed director Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle) and offers a personal snapshot of contemporary China in all its diversity. Shot over the course of ten years on both film and video, the film consists of a series of carefully composed tableaus of people and environments. 

Related films

image from the film CANCELLED - Chinese Portrait

CANCELLED - Chinese Portrait


image from the film Pain and Glory

Pain and Glory


image from the film Parasite



image from the film Synonyms



image from the film CANCELLED:  Beanpole



image from the film CANCELLED:  Invisible Life

CANCELLED: Invisible Life


image from the film CANCELLED - And Then We Danced

CANCELLED - And Then We Danced