Nine best non-Hollywood works on Netflix

Ferdinand S. Topacio - The Philippine Star
Nine best non-Hollywood works on Netflix
P (Thailand, 2005)

MANILA, Philippines — With cinemas closing and movie production grinding to a screeching halt during the lockdown, Filipinos forced to stay at home had to turn to alternatives to satisfy their craving for films. Fortunately, video streaming service Netflix is here to the rescue, offering an abundance of choices both old and new. For those weary of the usual offerings from Hollywood, they may try these nine outstanding works from other countries:

1. P (Thailand, 2005) — Yes, that one letter is the complete title of the thriller from Thailand. Provincial teen Dau (Suangporn Jaturaphut), desperate for funds to cure her ailing grandmother, is forced to work in a brothel in Bangkok. It turns out that grandma, well-versed in traditional Khmer magic, has imparted her knowledge to Dau. When customers and other club girls harass her, things get really scary until the dark arts the protagonist practices get out of control. Not for the faint of heart.

Casino Tycoon (Hong Kong, 1992)

2. Casino Tycoon (Hong Kong, 1992) — Hong Kong’s homage to The Godfather (1972), Andy Lau is in fine form in the lead as the tale traces the rise of Benny Ho San from penniless Chinese immigrant coolie to Macau’s richest and most powerful gambling kingpin. Fictional, but purportedly based on the lives of gaming moguls Stanley Ho, Yip Hon and Henry Fok. Long-running but well-acted and never boring.

UnTrue (Philippines, 2019)

3. UnTrue (Philippines, 2019) — Dark beyond any film noir of recent memory, the disturbing movie examines the power dynamics between dysfunctional relationships. Ominous and foreboding, it pushes the envelope and leaves one emotionally drained. Rhen Escaño’s short but intense role packs a wallop and elevates it to a classic.

Godzilla Resurgence (Japan, 2016)

4. Godzilla Resurgence (Japan, 2016) — The Japanese created the iconic celluloid colossus Godzilla, and in the film, they showed that they can do it better than Hollywood. More than a monster movie with jaw-dropping special effects, the producers managed to sneak in a none-too-subtle commentary on the flaws and foibles of the rigid structure of Japanese-style governance.

Secret (Taiwan, 2006)

5. Secret (Taiwan, 2006) — The well-crafted directorial debut of Taiwan pop superstar Jay Chou is inspiring, poignant and mystical. Ostensibly a simple love story between two music university students played by Chou himself and the achingly pretty Gwei Lun-Mei, it suddenly metamorphoses into a supernatural yarn of intriguing proportions. One who endures the deliberate pacing will be rewarded with a bombshell conclusion.

War of the Worlds: Goliath (Malaysia, 2012)

6. War of the Worlds: Goliath (Malaysia, 2012) — The solid animated sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic War of the Worlds is set in a historical 19th-century New York City where, in the aftermath of a foiled Martian invasion, the earth has developed advanced defenses against another alien attack. Numerous references to real historical occurrences and personages such as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Sarajevo, Theodore Roosevelt and The Red Baron add interest.

Steel Rain (South Korea, 2017)

7. Steel Rain (South Korea, 2017) — A chilling political thriller, it explores the consequences — including the threat of nuclear war — of a coup d’ etat against the North Korean leader by a hardline military faction intent on reviving a shooting war against the South. With pulse-pounding pacing and a captivating storyline that keeps you glued to the screen, it also features action and special effects at par with Hollywood movies. As a plus, it features a sardonic and often humorous comparison between the lives of South and North Koreans. You will pray that the scenario depicted remains fictional.

Westerplatte Resists (Poland, 1967)

8. Westerplatte Resists (Poland, 1967) — Not to be confused with the newer 1939 Battle of Westerplatte (2013), the glorious black-and-white film impressively stands the test of time, and is superior to the latter in terms of acting, storytelling and even special effects. To the history buff, Westerplatte is the place where the first shots of the Second World War were fired. The film is a moving story of the heroism of a small garrison of Polish soldiers, heavily outnumbered and outgunned, holding back the invading Germans for six days until disease and lack of supplies force them to capitulate.

While You Were Sleeping (South Korea, 2017)

9. While You Were Sleeping (South Korean, 2017) — While not strictly a film but a limited series of 16 episodes, it feels like an extended movie. Former K-Pop girl group member Bae Suzy plays a young reporter with the uncanny ability of foretelling the future in her dreams. Frustrated at her inability to change the outcome of tragedies she sees in her dreams, she is distraught until she meets government prosecutor Nang Da-reum (Lee Jong Suk), a man with the same capability. Told in flashbacks and dream sequences, how the series navigates the development of their relationship is totally enchanting. Set in a milieu that offers a thoughtful commentary on the South Korean media and justice system, it has a profundity far beyond its rom-com genre. Coupled with beautifully-written music and breathtaking cinematography, one would have to be dead not to fall in love with this modern fantasy. And the leads.

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