I love to travel. I enjoy the challenge of communicating in a foreign language, the delight of tasting new foods and the enrichment of experiencing different cultures and locales. For countries I'm planning to visit I like to check out travel books and DVDs from the library along with foreign films made in the country.
When traveling, few of us are lucky enough to be invited into a home to experience the life of a native of that area. This is where a foreign film can add to your understanding of a place and the people who live there. In the heartwarming and funny film "Kolya," I've spent time in the apartment of a middle-aged Czech bachelor trying to understand the little Russian boy he is left to care for after the boy's mother leaves the country.
I've come to love an Argentinean watchdog named Bombon who brings hope to his new owner, recently unemployed and struggling to make a living in Patagonia ("Bombon, el Perro").
I've watched unobserved as men enjoyed the old-fashioned comfort and camaraderie offered by a bathhouse. "Shower" takes us to modern China where an elderly man and his son struggle to keep their business alive as the country rushes to modernize.
I've gone away tremendously hungry for Mexican food after watching "Like Water for Chocolate" based on the novel by Laura Esquivel. We are privileged to enter a family's kitchen and watch them prepare the most tantalizing dishes while learning that the youngest daughter is forbidden to marry because she must stay home to care for her parents, according to their tradition.
We can also glean a better understanding of a country's history through film. Along with Mario, the local mail carrier, I've met the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda during his exile in Italy in 1950. In the delightful fictional love story, "Il Postino: The Postman," the renowned poet helps his new friend woo the lovely Beatrice.
If you abhor subtitles, there is a solution. Foreign films from English-speaking countries are naturally in English, offering the same rich experience of life in another country without the language barrier. "Rabbit-Proof Fence" based on the book, "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara, reenacts the story of the author's mother, a mixed-race Aborigine child in 1930s Australia. After Grimara's mother and her sister escape a reeducation camp 1,500 miles from their home, we witness their harrowing journey along the rabbit-proof fence to get back to their family.
Foreign films are available on DVD and also as free downloads to your computer or portable device from your Summit County libraries. To supplement your virtual travel via film, you may also enjoy the North Branch Library's travel slide show series beginning today at 7 p.m. in the Blue River meeting room, 651 Center Circle in Silverthorne. We begin with a climb up Kilimanjaro and continue around the world every other Friday. Presentations include trips to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia (Feb. 8), the Silk Road through Asia (Feb. 22), Alaska (March 8) and back to Colorado for "Avalanche Survival" (March 22).