People who have left their country of origin to work in another have great stories to tell. Sometimes, these stories are told on film in a way we can relate to.
We’ll drop the films about short adventurers or expeditions. There’s a difference between a tourist and an expat.
And we’ll leave out those immigrants who try to adapt to a new life while leaving the old one behind. (That’s a genre in itself.)
We’ll drop the refugees and soldiers who go abroad because they have to.
Instead, here are movies about those who are voluntarily settled abroad to work in the private sector but retain a strong link to their native land. These global workers build a bridge between two cultures, and are often gone long enough to forget how to cross back.
- Foreign Correspondent
- This is the story of what it’s like to put yourself out on the limb for a new job. It all starts with what looks like a dull interview in a taxi. Opportunity presents itself in dangerous ways when our hero finds himself investigating a murder, kidnapping, and spy ring. The journalist takes what appears to be a mediocre assignment and turns it into a mission.
- A Chump at Oxford.
- Many expats are foreign students, and these students have been immortalized by the kings of comedy.
- As a reward for catching a bank robber, Laurel and Hardy finally get an education, fully funded. Not just any education, they go to Oxford. There, the two experience the worst kind of hazing. But just when it appears that all is lost we learn that Laurel, a British expat who lived in America, was a former Oxford student.
- After getting his memory back, Laurel gets his own back at his would be tormentors, and virtually takes over the place. But the new (or old) Laurel is just as mean to Hardy as the locals are.
- The perfect film to scare American students out of sending their talents overseas.
- A young Mexican boy gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a scout for Newcastle sees him kick a ball around. His father objects, but later is proud to watch his son achieve dreams that the father never held for him.
- While most expats don’t get to play professional sports for a world class side, a move can be easily be motivated by more opportunity in our chosen field. And, when additional opportunity presents itself in Goal II, our hero moves again, this time to Madrid (with disastrous results for both his relationships and the storyline.)
- Again, moving abroad can hurt a family, and these strains are depicted in the sequel (but not in a realistic manner.)
- The Karate Kid
- One may think that Mr. Miyagi has settled in American life, but it’s the knowledge the expat brings from his homeland that turns this maintenance man into a role model and mentor for our young hero.
- In Karate Kid II, it is young Daniel who is out of place on Okinawa, where the American kid helps his mentor confront the ghosts of the old man’s youth.
- In Will Smith’s remake of The Karate Kid, the situation is more familiar to our average ex-pat. The hero’s mother moves to China because there is no work left for her in Detroit. Mother and son are out of place, with one generation loving the novelty of the new culture, and the child missing home to the point of saying “I hate it here.”
- When expats take a job abroad, they sometimes feel they have to. But children can have real problems adapting to the new culture, and don’t always understand.
- Some Ex-pats go abroad just to get away from it all, and Rick, the hero of Casablanca, is one of them.
- Rick is an American who owns a small cafe in North Africa. His memories span other nations as well, including a short spell in Paris. Almost everyone who comes to Rick’s cafe comes from another world, or another part of a world at war.
- His Cafe is a stop over between destinations, kind of like those fast food joints we sometimes stop at in a connecting flight.
If you’ve lived and worked in more than two countries, the “stop over” destination might have become mundane. Familiar faces appear in the strangest places.
Can you think of any others? What are your favorite films about expats?
(Note: one of the regular writers for Ptara is currently in pre-production of a film about two expats. The script for this film is finished, has been registered with the Library of Congress, and is currently being storyboarded.)