Creative stories from around the world are more accessible than ever

click to enlarge The Silent Sea
The Silent Sea

For much of the world, American and English-language entertainment is pervasive in pop culture, from movies to popular music. But it's been much rarer for the U.S. to celebrate content created elsewhere.

Thankfully, that appears to be changing, and weekend sloths like me are welcoming diverse narratives into our screentime regimen. Netflix especially has made a point of exposing Americans to international talent as the platform adds shows from around the world. No longer are foreign shows and movies relegated to film-snob territory; any viewer with the willingness to read subtitles can now easily enjoy work from incredible, creative minds outside the English-speaking world.

If confirmation is needed that dubbed audio or translated subtitles can work in our aggressively ethnocentric country, you need not look further than last year's explosive success of the Korean thriller Squid Game.

There are dozens of international gems on Netflix you don't want to miss. Here are a few:

DISAFFECTED ANGELS

It's a shame Netflix has funded so many shows canceled after a single season. But just because you might be in for a cliffhanger doesn't mean a show is a waste of your time. The quirky Brazilian series Nobody's Looking explores the idea of what would happen if guardian angels were really just cranky office workers assigned to you in order to stop small mishaps from changing your life. While the ending of the first and only season leaves plenty of unanswered questions, you will be hooked from the start on the show's The Good Place vibes and ethical conundrums.

NOT SO TRANQUIL

Let's assume that after Squid Game, you've been looking for another Korean thriller. When the world is running out of water in the frightening future, a space crew is sent to an abandoned moon lab to look for potential answers to save humanity. But what if those answers involve unpalatable truths about heinous government experimentation? What if salvation comes at an immense moral and physical cost? The sci-fi series The Silent Sea explores the stakes, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the bitter end.

MOMENT OF ECSTASY

Undercover is a Belgian-Dutch production, with at least three seasons to keep you guessing. When undercover cops try to take down an international party-drug kingpin, two agents go deep into the trailer park to befriend the head honcho and build a case against him. Rules are broken, lies are rampant, and it's only a matter of time before everybody gets hurt, with sometimes deadly consequences.

COOKING MEETS THERAPY

In each 25-minute episode of Midnight Diner (as well as Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories), visitors to a late-night Tokyo diner share deep tales of human error and tribulations. But the uniting theme is that the characters reminisce about specific Japanese dishes as they cope with everything life has thrown their way. The self-contained storylines make each episode an easy escape (even when deep trauma is involved), making this one of the most comforting shows I've watched in a long time.

WEIMAR REPUBLIC

Clocking in as the most expensive non-English show ever made, Babylon Berlin offers an extravagant look at Germany in the years just before the Third Reich. While not everything is about the money, the elaborate costumes, sets and manpower needed to tell the noir crime story show the value of a good investment. Multiple scenes in the first season not only make you feel as though you were there in the 1920s, but also showcase the sheer manpower everyone was willing to bring on board to make that magical retelling immersive for viewers everywhere. ♦

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...