AUSTIN, TEXAS — International films often challenge American viewers to look at life from different perspectives. That was obvious at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas, where many films from other countries were being featured.
Movies such as the Turkish film "Zayiat," or Casualties, is the story of a son searching for his father.
Staying with relatives in Istanbul and using friends as actors, New York-based director Deniz Tortum made what he calls a no-budget film.
“The budget of the film was two thousand dollars, so it was pretty much no budget," he says, explaining that he shot in neighborhoods where people live and work, not near Istanbul's tourist sites.
“I just wanted to shoot in the places where I actually lived and spent most of my time in Istanbul," he says. "I have lots and lots of memories in those places.”
For Andrea Thiele, a German filmmaker who lives in the United States, the act of driving a car represented a unique lens through which to view cross-cultural dynamics in a globalized world.
Her comic documentary "And Who Taught You to Drive?" shows foreigners learning to drive in different countries — a German in India, a Korean in Germany and an American in Japan.
“Traffic is almost like a metaphor for the culture of each country," says Thiele.
By mounting cameras inside the cars, she was able to capture frustration, anxiety and humor that make the documentary seem almost like a comedy.
“All three protagonists were at first scared to have a camera following them, but all three then forgot it very quickly, and they became natural," she says, adding that tracking her roving subjects in cities such as Mumbai posed a particular challenge.
"In India, [closely following another car] it is almost impossible, because there is always coming something, so we were like jumping out of the car, trying to catch them," she says.
Although Thiel's film is showing in Europe, she is looking for distributors in the United States and Asia.