Nothing. So please stop creating “foreign” as a category on streaming services.
As HBO Go folds, I switched my membership to HBO Max, their new and fully loaded streaming service, coming with the complete collection of Hayao Miyazaki, Game of Thrones, and everything in between. Yet, like almost every major streaming service, HBO has grouped all non-English speaking movies into the category “international.”
I’ll give HBO a little credit. Usually, “international/foreign” means strictly non-English language cinema. Thus, on Netflix, one would never find the British Christopher Nolan in their “foreign” category. HBO, it appears, has decided that Harry Potter qualifies as international. But this is an exception. Kanopy, the provider of “thoughtful entertainment,” still falls into this trap, although they don’t appear to know that. On Kanopy, one will find the category “Korean cinema” — as if all Korean movies have something significant in common.
I understand their collections of international cinema may be too small to justify unique categories in many cases, but I just wish streaming providers would stop pretending that “international,” or even worse, “foreign,” is a genre.
I imagine this turns away possible viewers. Watching a movie in your native tongue is easier, especially when the only alternative is to surf the bowels of the “foreign” category until you find a romantic comedy or creature feature or whatever else you’re specifically in the mood for.
This recurring habit of streaming providers also encourages the “othering” of foreign cinema. Avid consumers of anime, who have found solace in a corner of Japanese cinema, are frequently bullied just because they like Japanese cartoons. The Japanese identities of anime filmmakers can be important to the show, but it can also be irrelevant; it just happens to be Japanese. But labeling it as “Japanese,” although true, says to possible viewers, “this is almost what you want, but not quite.” What not label all American media as specifically American? Because it’s unnecessary.
Streaming services: you have a responsibility to be stewards of cinema and to encourage viewers to fall in love with the movies. If you limit your consumers to the cinemas of a handful of English speaking countries, you act as a gatekeeper to the pop culture canon — L’aventure has nothing in common with Cronos, so don’t pretend that they do.