To a cinephile, nothing compares to seeing a great movie in a darkened theatre, the perfect blank slate from which to be transported to unfamiliar and far-off lands with vivid scenery and amazing cultures. WHL Group here presents five of its favourite movies, shot in a variety of locations around the world.
The Last Emperor – Beijing, China
A winner of seven Academy Awards, The Last Emperor is considered one of Bernardo Bertolucci’s best films. With the scenic setting of imperial China, the film was the first western production ever granted permission to shoot within the confines of the Forbidden City of Beijing. At nearly three hours in duration, the biography elegantly maps out the life of Pu Yi (1903-1967), the final Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, displaying scenes from his life that reflect the history of early 20th century China. Filmed throughout Beijing and parts of Manchuria, The Last Emperor was exquisitely shot by cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, and cost a whopping US$25 million – hardly small change for 1987.
Cidade de Deus (City of God) – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Instead of gorgeous beaches and nightlife, City of God dares to show a different side of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, based on a true story about a boy named Rocket growing up on the city’s outskirts. Taking place in the 1960s, the emotionally violent tale captures Rocket’s struggle to free himself from the clutches of his morally deficit setting. The story takes place over two decades, displaying how children living innocently in the favelas (slums) grow up to become drug lords battling for power and terrain. With sex, drugs and a soundtrack that just makes you want to samba, City of God is everything that you want it to be and more. Director Fernando Meirelles’ art direction is stunning, cinematically bringing to life the exquisite beauty of Brazil juxtaposed with the unsightliness of inhumanity.
The English Patient – Tunisia
Tunisia has been the setting for many films, such as Star Wars, Jesus of Nazareth, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but perhaps unbeknownst to most, it was the location for what is thought to be one of the most romantic films of all time: The English Patient. Although the film takes place in the Sahara Desert, it was actually filmed in Tunis and other parts of Tunisia, telling the tale of a passionate love affair that blossoms during an archaeological expedition into Egypt and Libya. Told in flashbacks, the movie exhibits brilliant scenes of the remote desert and the infinite rolling landscape, which sets the scene for a tumultuous journey of love and deceit.
Cold Mountain – Transylvania, Romania
A modern day Odyssey, the film Cold Mountain is the epic tale of a confederate soldier named Inman on a journey back to find his love, Ada, after the American Civil War. The gorgeous mountain scenery, which was meant to be Cold Mountain, North Carolina, was actually filmed in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania in the Eastern European country of Romania. John Seale, the cinematographer, artistically captures the breathtaking magnificence of the rural Romanian countryside, which would almost be enough to make an excellent film, even without the romantic storyline. However, with an emotional narrative and an original bluegrass soundtrack, the film is a triple treat.
Salaam Bombay! – Mumbai, India
Nominated for an Academy Award for best Foreign Language film, Salaam Bombay! is the powerful tale of Krishna, a young boy forced to leave his home in the slums of Mumbai to make money for his mother. Similar to the contemporary Slumdog Millionaire, Salaam Bombay! is a culturally vibrant movie that defies convention to show the underside of Mumbai and the life of neglected street kids. This Bollywood favourite is replete with complex characters and an arousing plot, but what perhaps makes the film so real is that most of the actors were actually street children from Mumbai. After the film went public, the director, Mira Nair, started the Salaam Baalak Trust to help street kids, which is still in existence today.