best foreign movies and tv streaming

(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)

We’ve got an animation-heavy column for you in this week’s Pop Culture Imports, but if you’re looking for bright, family-friendly fare, they won’t be here. What is it with foreign filmmakers using animation as a medium through which to work through some of the most traumatic events (fictional or otherwise) in history? That’s a question for another day, but meanwhile let’s have a look at the best foreign movies and TV streaming now, which include war-torn refugee films Funan and Adú, a disaster anime series from Netflix, and a deadpan heist film from Romania.

Fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now

Funan – Netflix

Country: France, Belgium

Genre: Animated historical drama

Director: Denis Do

Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Louis Garrel.

When approaching horrific historical events like the rise of the violent Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, any filmmaker has to tread carefully. But Funan director Denis Do has to approach the subject with an extra layer of sensitivity because his animated film is about his own family. Do’s mother serves as the basis for the main character of the French-Belgian animated film, which follows a Cambodian woman who searches for her child after he is forcibly taken from her during the beginning of the Khmer Rouge revolution in April 1975. Although a harrowing vision of the war-torn country, the animation is a little too simplistic to really convey the depth of the horrors, but Funan’s sensitive storytelling is a wonderful tribute to the power of human resilience in times of trauma.

Watch This If You Like: PersepolisGrave of the FirefliesThe Breadwinner, getting your soul crushed by animated movies.

Japan Sinks: 2020 – Netflix

Country: Japan

Genre: Disaster anime series

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Cast: Reina Ueda, Tomo Muranaka, Yuko Sasaki.

Masaaki Yuasa has carved out a niche for himself as one of the most experimental anime directors working in Japan right now, achieving mainstream success with the profoundly weird Mind Game and more accessible hits like Devilman Crybaby and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! But his wild, freeform style is sometimes hard to get used to, and while I admire his flights of fancy, I often find myself getting lost in the swirls of color and his amorphous character designs. But Japan Sinks: 2020 may be one of Yuasa’s best works yet. Based on the 1973 disaster novel by Japanese writer Sakyo Komatsu, Japan Sinks: 2020 follows a contemporary Tokyo family at ground zero of a series of shattering earthquakes in Japan which cause the archipelago to begin to sink into the ocean. The awesome devastation stands in contrast to the grounded reality of the four-member family, who race to find each other amid the destruction — the teenage daughter wracked with guilt at leaving behind her mortally injured track team with only a scratch on her ankle. It’s a remarkable sci-fi disaster story for its grounded, character-driven approach amid the gorgeous, majestic background animation.

Watch This If You Like: The Impossible, Lost, getting your soul crushed by animated shows.

The Whistlers – Hulu

Country: Romania

Genre: Comedy crime thriller

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Cast: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Agustí Villaronga.

The Whistlers is an odd one. Billed as a comedy crime thriller, this Romanian heist film is as deadpan as you can get, with none of its characters cracking the hint of a smile. But its twists and turns and decidedly offbeat sense of humor is reason enough to give The Whistlers a second glance. Directed by Corneliu PorumboiuThe Whistlers follows a crooked cop Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) who gets roped into a heist to steal a secret stash of 30 million euros, using a unique “whistling language” cooked up by the natives at Canary Island. It’s got all the archetypes of a neo-noir — double agents, double crosses, a femme fatale (who is at the center of one of the steamiest sex scenes of the year) — but with everything a little off-kilter. There’s a hotel that only plays opera music, there’s a mattress factory that holds the hidden cash, and there are bad guys employed by even badder guys. It’s stylish and sexy, and a little confusing, but The Whistlers is a cracking Coen Brothers-esque caper.

Watch This If You Like: The Nice Guys, Burn After Reading, comedies where no one cracks a smile.

The God of High School – Crunchyroll

Country: Japan

Genre: Martial arts anime series

Director: Sunghoo Park

Cast: Tatsumaru Tachibana, Kentaro Kumagai, Ayaka ?hashi.

Based on a webtoon manwha written by Yongje ParkThe God of High School is like if you took Dragon Ball and condensed it into a Yu-Gi-Oh! style competition (or really, if you just made an entire anime out of the tournament arcs in Dragon Ball and set it in contemporary Seoul). That comparison is built into the DNA of this series, which draws much inspiration from the Chinese novel Journey to the West, the very same fable which Dragon Ball loosely adapted. The tone is fun and a little silly, but it’s the magnificent fight sequences you want to watch out for: fluid, clean, with nary a dropped key frame in sight. The God of High School smoothly ping pongs between tones and fast-paced action sequences, which move like a dream.

Watch This If You Like: Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu Yu Hakusho, top 10 anime fights.

Adú – Netflix

Country: Spain

Genre: Migrant drama

Director: Salvador Calvo

Cast: Luis Tosar, Álvaro Cervantes, Anna Castillo, Moustapha Oumarou.

Directed by Salvador Calvo, Adú is a sprawling melodrama that tells three vaguely interconnected stories set in Africa in an ambitious narrative that attempts to give a harrowing snapshot of ongoing refugee crises on both sides of the border. At the barbed wire border fence at Melilla, a Spanish city in Morocco, a trio of civil guardsman get in a scuffle with desperate immigrants that results in one immigrant falling to his death. In the second story, a Spanish preservationist (Luis Tosar) struggles to reconnect with his estranged hard-partying daughter while fighting a losing battle for elephant conservation. In the third and most effective story, a young Cameroonian boy named Adú tries to make his way to his father in Spain. While Calvo and screenwriter Alejandro Hernandez craft the film very clearly out of their own white guilt — with Adú at times feeling so punishing that you wonder why you want to watch more misfortunes befall this one migrant child — the story of the migrant child at the center is touching and moving, with a powerhouse performance from young actor Moustapha Oumarou.

Watch This If You Like: Crash, Babel, Magnolia, intersecting character dramas.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: