One of the things I love most about teaching World Literature classes is that I have the opportunity to explore all kinds of media from around the world with my students. Usually, this involves texts, but we also have a great deal of fun exploring beautiful foreign films as well. In this post, I am sharing 3 foreign films that your students will love!
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
This tale is both a blend of mythology as well as folktale. There is an old bamboo cutter and his wife who were childless and one day the bamboo cutter is in the forest harvesting bamboo. As he cuts a stalk, the most beautiful light glows from inside and the bamboo cutter finds a tiny, illuminating child. She explains that she has come from the moon to live with him for a time and falls asleep. There are also coins and jewels in the bamboo stalks.
The girl grows quickly and is so beautiful that she is known far and wide. 5 knights try to win her hand and fail. The emperor also falls in love with her. However, the story ends sadly when the moon people come to take her back home against everyone’s wishes.
In 2013, the movie The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was released in Japan. It is a historical anime adaptation of this ancient story and is still the most expensive Japanese film every made. I find some of the changes/additions to be quite interesting and wonder what it says about the shift in Japanese culture.
One change being that Princess Kaguya spends much of her early years on the planet living in poverty in the country. However, this turns out to be the only place she was truly happy. Once the bamboo cutter has amassed enough of the coins and jewels to build a mansion, fine clothes, and a position in society; he rips his wife and daughter away from the simple life they loved.
Princess Kaguya goes through some horrific body rituals required by her station (including staining her teeth with black ink because a lady of her station shouldn’t be speaking or laughing enough to show her teeth anyway). Only after she rejects all of these beauty rituals and returns to her simple nature does she start to become herself again.
Song of the Sea
This is a highly awarded Irish animated film. Ben, a young Irish boy, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, go on an adventure to free the fairies and save the spirit world.
This film weaves Celtic mythology and the modern world together in beautiful and heartbreaking ways. I usually use this film to close out my mini Celtic mythology study since we first learn about the Celtic culture and some of the myths highlighted in the move. Such as Mac Lir, Macha, and Selkies.
What my students love:
- the beautiful artwork
- the characters and the storyline
- how easily they can pick up on the symbolism and parallel plot
With Song of the Sea, I love that I am able to bring in deep analysis with my students through symbolism, archetypes, parallel plot and much more.
If you would like a more detailed look at the myths reflected in this story, be sure to check out this post!
If you’re ready to get started today with a study like this in your class, head on over to my store and you can buy this ready-to-go mini unit today!
If your students are as into anime and Manga as mine are, this movie will quickly move to the top of your list! Ne Zha, tells the story of a young boy destined to destroy the world. He must fight to choose between good and evil in order to break the shackles of fate and become the hero he desperately wants to be.
You can check out a trailer for this film here.
In Chinese folk religion, Ne Zha is a protection deity and this film highlights many of the ancient Chinese beliefs along with a more modern twist that most can enjoy. This film is wonderful for having discussions over how many people are more willing to believe in hearsay and then look at people with colored glasses. Nezha, is a rebellious, child superhero who honestly just wants to be accepted and loved for who he is. Despite the fact that everyone hates him, he takes on fighting demons to protect these people who hate and exclude him.
There are so many foreign films that I could continue to highlight in this post, but these are by far my top 3 as they can be worked in seamlessly to your humanities studies on a variety of topics and themes.