Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Stuck indoors this summer? 8 under-hyped foreign language shows to watch

We round up the best binge-worthy international productions by Netflix and Amazon

'Tokyo Vampire Hotel' can now be streamed on Amazon. Courtesy Nikkatsu
'Tokyo Vampire Hotel' can now be streamed on Amazon. Courtesy Nikkatsu

With temperatures continuing to soar, now is the time to look into some new binge-watching and movie options to help you see out the rest of summer. But while there is plenty of hype over shows such as Stranger Things and The Grand Tour on the major international streaming platforms, the key word there is “international”. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime ­operate in numerous markets around the world and produce shows in these markets, too.

And if we step away from the English language, the streamers are introducing the world to foreign-language content that isn’t only accessible to film geeks with a penchant for French magical realism or Japanese ultra violence. Shows such as the German Dark, the Spanish Money Heist and the Danish Rain have picked up their own share of hype along the way, but there’s plenty more quality international content out there that may have slipped under the radar while everyone was talking about Stranger Things. Here’s our recommendations for your must-watch list.

'Elite' (Spain, Netflix)

Alvaro Rico, Ester Exposito, Aron Piper, Miguel Bernardeau, Danna Paola, Maria Pedraza in Elite. Manuel Fernandez-Valdes/Netflix
Alvaro Rico, Ester Exposito, Aron Piper, Miguel Bernardeau, Danna Paola, Maria Pedraza in 'Elite'. Manuel Fernandez-Valdes/Netflix

Part teen high school drama, part murder mystery, Elite follows the story of three working class friends who are given scholarships to the most exclusive school in Spain by the construction company responsible for the collapse of their previous state school. Initially, the institution’s posh students shun the trio, but over time friendships, romance and, yes, criminal intentions begin to develop. Elite also wins points for tackling issues of Islamophobia through the treatment of lead character, the hijab-­wearing Nadia (Mina El Hammani). You might be a little wary of watching what could, not entirely unreasonably, be classed as a trashy teen drama, but with 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, at least you’re assured that critics shared the same guilty pleasure.

'Lionheart' (Nigeria, Netflix)

Nigerian actress and producer Genevieve Nnaji made her directorial debut with Lionheart, Netflix’s first Nigerian original. Nnaji also stars in the family drama, which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2018 ­before launching online in January this year. The film follows businesswoman Adaeze, who is trying to save her father’s company after ill health leaves him unable to run it. The movie also marks the acting debut of Nigerian RnB star Peter Okoye.

'Kingdom' (South Korea, Netflix)

Political intrigue, attempted coups, monsters and zombies unite for Netflix’s first Korean Original, which launched in January this year. Set during the Joseon dynasty that ruled Korea for 500 years from 1392, actor Ju Ji-hoon’s crown prince is forced to set out to solve the mystery of a spreading undead plague, while also trying to learn the truth about his sick father, who officials have pronounced dead – and deal with the matter of a rebellious group of ministers who are seeking to dethrone his family.

'You Are Wanted' (Germany, Amazon)

mazon was a little late to the party, with its first foreign-language Original You Are Wanted only launching in March 2017 (Netflix’s Club de Cuervos launched in 2015). But in the months since, ­Amazon has really ramped up production, with 17 new foreign shows commissioned in February from countries including Italy, India, Germany and the UK. This crime drama is a good place to start with Amazon’s non-English content, as hotel manager Lukas attempts to prove his innocence after his online data is hijacked to implicate him in terrorist activities. Two series of the show are currently available.

'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind' (UK/Malawi, Netflix)

Chiwetel Ejiofor had to learn a new language for this UK/Malawi co-­production, which uses a mix of English and the Malawian language, Chewa. The true story is based on the memoir of Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine to provide electricity for his family’s rural home using materials harvested from a scrapyard in 2002, at the age of 15. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplied the first drinking water in his village and two other wind turbines.

'Osmosis' (France, Netflix)

There are touches of Black Mirror to this dark French sci-fi drama. Set in near-future Paris, the show outlines what happens when a new dating app called Osmosis is developed, a platform that can decode true love, digging deep into its users’ brain data to find a ­perfect match with 100 per cent ­accuracy. But is there a price to pay when letting an algorithm decide who you will love, using ­technology that can access the innermost ­recesses of your mind and your best-kept secrets?

'Tokyo Vampire Hotel' (Japanese, Amazon)

Rival vampire clans take to the ­corridors of the Requiem Hotel in this Japanese horror drama, released in June 2017. In an unfortunate turn of events, as the vampires get ­together for a party hosted by the hotel’s vampire proprietors, it is ­revealed that the world is about to end and only those inside the hotel will survive. The nine-part series was shot both on an elaborate hotel set built in Tokyo and in Romania – the home of the vampire legend. A 142-minute feature film edit was also given a festival release, while Japanese math rock outfit Tricot provide the theme tune.

'3%' (Brazil, Netflix)

Netflix’s first Portuguese-language Original, 3%, premiered back in 2016, and the third season launched on the streaming site last month. The show takes place in a dystopian future where the lucky few live on an offshore paradise island, while the majority are trapped on the ­mainland in dire conditions. Each year, a ­televised competition takes place to win a place on the island, but only 3 per cent of contestants will make it. Many of the rest tend to meet a grisly end. If it sounds a bit Hunger Games, that’s because it is, but with the added bonus of jungles and ­Oscar-nominated City of God cinematographer Cesar Charlone on directing and producing duty.

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Updated: August 4, 2019 07:17 PM

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