The world on screen: the best movies from Africa, Asia and Latin America
From a Somali love story to a deep dive into Congolese rumba, The.com writers pick their favourite recent world cinema releases
The Great Indian Kitchen
A leaking kitchen pipe is at the heart of this Malayalam language film, set in a relatively prosperous family home in scenic Kerala. Each day, the new bride asks her husband, a teacher, to get it fixed. Each day, she clears out pails of dirty water from under the sink. Each day, he returns having carelessly forgotten her request.
Repetition is key in this merciless excavation of a woman’s life after marriage, written and directed by Jeo Baby. The camera returns time and again to her going through the motions of cooking, cleaning, supplying sex to her husband. The men do yoga and leave the house. The women are seen serving the men: cleaning their leftovers from the table, handing them a toothbrush each morning, fetching their slippers. But mostly, they are kept busy in the kitchen – endlessly chopping, grating, washing and sweeping.
The sheer monotony of their chores recalls Simone de Beauvoir’s description of housework as being akin to sisyphean torture, as mundane tasks eat away the hours of their lives.
There are no easy villains here. The people are ordinary, the cruelty normalised. The protagonist is everywoman, remaining unnamed through the film. Certainly her slow misery and thwarted ambitions touched a chord among audiences across India. Her eventual rebellion has elements of fantasy but is the kind of escapism one can cheer for.
Watch The Great Indian Kitchen for its portrait of patriarchy in everyday guise, and how progressive ideas can often be comfortably discarded when entering the domestic space, like a pair of outdoor slippers.
Taran Khan, Mumbai-based writer and author of Shadow City
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Shot in black and white, with a cinematic style and rhythm that lets its characters and locations transcend the screen, this poetic, multilayered documentary by Ethiopian-Mexican film-maker Jessica Beshir captures the spiritual, psychological, familial and socioeconomic tensions and transitions experienced by a generation of Ethiopian youth.
Set around the ancient town of Harar, the sensitive and unflinching nature with which Beshir constructs Faya Dayi demonstrates her intimate understanding of the region. Framed by the larger socioeconomic and political transformations of this eastern region of Ethiopia, where khat has replaced coffee as the main cash crop and ethnicity has become politicised, the side-effects of these shifts are felt through the experiences and dreams of a boy called Mohammed.
Mohammed’s story is interspersed by multiple other narratives, which make his toiling in the fields, errand running for neighbours and despairing over his father’s addiction to “chewing khat”, while coming to terms with the fact that his mother left him for the promise of a better life abroad, all the more resonant with the burning existential dilemma facing Ethiopia today.
Dr Michael W Thomas, postdoctoral research fellow at Soas, University of London on the African Screen Worlds project
Manco Cápac is the name of the legendary founder of the Inca civilisation, and this minimalist feature film has been selected to represent Peru in the Oscars’ best international feature film category.
It tells the story of a young internal migrant’s survival, as he travels to the southern city of Puno with no more than 2 sol (£0.37) and a mobile phone card in his pocket.
“It’s a story of classism and indifference,” says film-maker Henry Vallejo. He began writing the screenplay in 2010, but the project stalled due to lack of funding. The central character, a timid 20-year-old called Elisbán (played by Jesús Luque), was inspired by a former classmate.