How many Columbians can say they make a habit out of watching foreign films, experiencing on screen what it’s like to go to school in Oman or fall in love in Vietnam? Not many, which is why the Museum of Modern Art has partnered with the Global Film Initiative to bring the Global Lens Film Series to U.S. audiences.
Global Lens is a traveling festival that screens films from nations where the economic and social circumstances are not favorable for making movies. For budding directors, acquiring the funds, equipment, and support necessary to tell their stories through film is nearly impossible. That’s where the GFI comes in.
This nonprofit organization strives to advance understanding and knowledge among various cultures by making it possible for talented filmmakers in developing nations to have their voices heard. The organization sees self-expression as an integral part of a nation’s growth and awards 10 to 20 grants for $10,000 every year.
Every year since its creation in 2004, the Global Lens Series has premiered at the MoMA before traveling to 35 locations across the U.S. and Canada. The eight films showing this year hail from India, China, Uruguay, Peru, Algeria, Iran, Vietnam, and Mexico.
“Adrift,” the second feature from Vietnamese director Bui Thac Chuyen, is an example of the thought-provoking cinema this festival offers. The film boldly analyzes contemporary romance through the story of Duyen, a young newlywed who strays from her childish husband into the arms of a seductive suitor. A tale of emotional frustration and sexual awakening, “Adrift” effectively exposes viewers to the realities of navigating relationships in Hanoi.
There is only one week left to catch this film and many others like it, as the festival runs through Jan. 29. “Masquerades,”—a romantic comedy from Algeria about a narcoleptic woman who embraces a piece of false gossip to trick the man she loves into taking action—is showing this week, as is “My Tehran for Sale,” a riveting look at a terminally ill Iranian actress trying to find success in the underground art scene of Tehran.
While “Avatar,” a movie set on a completely fabricated planet, has grossed over a billion dollars internationally, there’s no reason why students shouldn’t also experience films from their own universe. By taking the short trip to the MoMA, Columbians can contribute to the development of cross-cultural understanding and tolerance through filmmaking, all from the comfortable seat of a theater.