International Films Comparing Urban and Rural Youth

Stolen Life about Chinese rural migrants to the city. It shows the class system where city people look down on rural peasants. A freshman university student is corrupted by a scheming boyfriend. (China, 2005)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.  During the Cultural Revolution, two intellectual city boys are sent to the countryside. The shows the impact of the country on them, and visa versa, especially the young seamstress who falls in love with reading. (2002)

The Road Home. An 18-year-old girl in a mountain village falls in love with the new 20-year-old schoolteacher. There’s no kissing in this love story, lots of eye contact and cooking food for him. (1999)

Mao’s Last Dancer: An Australian film about a peasant boy—the sixth son in his family—who was raised during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, trained in Beijing to be a ballet dancer. The film is based on his autobiography, with flash backs from his rural boyhood to dancing in Texas. (2009)

Born in Brothels. It follows the stories of several children growing up in the red-light district of Calcutta, and the impact made on them when they are given cameras to record their daily lives. (India, 2004)

Slumdog Millionaire. A slum boy ends up on a quiz show and his friends as they grow up in poverty. (India, 2008)

City of God shows crime life in a favela/slum in Rio, Brazil. (2002)

City of Men. About two 18-year-old boys who grew up in RIo slums. (2007)

Bus 174: A documentary about a former street kid who hijacks a city bus in Rio. (Brazil, 2003)

Only When I Dance. 18-year-old Irlan succeeds as a ballet dancer, stating, “My greatest desire is to give my parents a better life.” Isabela, 17, struggles less successfully to leave slum life behind. Her dark skin keeps her from being accepted in a Brazilian dance company. (Brazil, 2009)

The Zone. A walled compound of wealthy families in Mexico City is broken into by three teen boys who try to steal from one of the homes. One of slum boys, Miguel, hides out and is befriended by another teen who lives in the compound, Alejandro. The film shows the gap between rich and poor, how the police can be bribed and the rich take justice into their own hands. It’s violent. (2007)

  1. Hermano. Two teen soccer players live in a Caracas slum, one of them is in a gang. (Venezuela, 2012)
  2. Yesterday. An illiterate Zulu farmwoman, whose husband works in the mines in Johannesburg, learns she had AIDS. She is determined to stay alive until her daughter starts school. Shows village life. (South Africa, 2004)

Beat the Drum is about orphans who live on the streets of Johannesburg. (South Africa, 2002)

A Separation. A middle-class couple in Tehran separates because the mother wants to leave Iran. The father brings in a lower-class caregiver for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease. She brings her young daughter with her. Their 11-year-old daughter Termeh is caught in the middle of her parents’ disagreements. She lies to prevent her father from going to jail after an incident where he pushes the caregiver out of his door and she has a miscarriage.  Masoud Ferasati, an Iranian writer close to government said: “The image of our society that A Separation depicts is the dirty picture Westerners are wishing for.” It’s similar to the film Divorce Iranian Style. (Iran, 2011)

Bliss tells the story of an ex-commando who is ordered by his family to kill his 17-year-old cousin, an “honor killing,” because she was raped and “tainted.” It contrasts the differences between rural and urban lifestyles and shows the girl’s increasing strength to stand up for herself. (Turkey, 2007)

Nairobi Half Life. A young aspiring actor, Mwas migrates from a village in rural Kenya to Nairobi and is exposed to slum life and gang crime. (2012)

  1. Machuca. The film takes place in 1973, when the first socialist president democratically elected in a Latin-American country, President Salvador Allende is murdered. The story is about an upper-class boy who meets a lower-class boy when their Catholic school is integrated. Their friendship is torn apart by the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. (Argentina, 2004)

To Be and to Have. A documentary about a dedicated teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural French village. 2003

Owl and the Sparrow. A 10-year-old orphan girl lives on the streets of Saigon. (2006)

The Story of the Weeping Camel. A family of nomadic shepherds raises a white camel calf. (Mongolia, 2004)

In America: an Irish immigrant family comes to live in a tenement in New York City, told from the point of view of the little girls. (US, 2003)

Beasts of the Southern Wild. A six-year-old black girl lives on an island in the Louisiana bayou with her alcoholic and sick father in poverty without electricity, both of them first-time actors. Her father refers to her as “man,” and teaches her to be a tough and survivor. (US, 2012)

 

Films about discrimination against indigenous young people:

Map of the Human Heart. About an Eskimo boy Avik, nicknamed Holy Boy, by a New Zealand filmmaker. It shows his corruption by western culture. (Eskimo, 1993)

Walkabout tells the story of an aboriginal boy who befriends two lost children. (Australia, 1971)

Rabbit-Proof Fence. True story about three indigenous girls (ages 8-14) who are kidnapped and taken to a missionary school in the 1930s because they are half white, and escape to travel hundreds of miles on foot with no food or water or map to get back home. The girls had no previous experience as actors. (Australia, 2002)

Kite Runner: Takes place in Afghanistan in the 1970s, about a Pashtun boy and underclass Hazara boy. (Afghanistan, 2007)

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