World Cinema: Get inspiration for your next holiday

The gloom of January getting you down? World cinema can provide the perfect guide to your summer holiday destinations, as Nick explains…

So, it’s January. Post-festive season excesses have caught up with us, and for many, back to work blues have most likely also struck. What a crappy month. No wonder most people have already started planning their holidays. In my office the talk is full of people with one foot somewhere exotic. Or at least Magaluf.

But can films provide us with inspiration? I hope so, or else this is going to be a somewhat short column. So, without further ado, here’s a list of destinations for you, complete with what makes them so special…


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What the guidebook says: “Thailand…gives off a certain lustre, be it the fertile rice fields of the central plains, white sandy beaches or the warm hospitality of its citizenry.”

All well and good, but I’d much prefer the dayglo Thailand of Tears Of The Black Tiger for my trip there.

Pros: Midgets with bazookas, cowboys, bright neon colours, romantic interludes with pretty girls on verandas, awesome shoot-outs against your rivals virtually guaranteed.

Cons: Midgets with bazookas, distinct possibility that you will be blown up or gunned down in an ultra-violent manner, most of the beautiful scenery and sunsets you have been admiring will turn out to be nothing more than fetchingly painted backdrops.

Verdict: If you like guns and cowboys, go right ahead. Oh, and midgets.


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What the guidebook says: “Suspended in time centuries ago, Bruges is now one of Western Europe’s most-visited medieval cities. Picturesque market squares, dreamy canals and old whitewashed almshouses all evoke a world long since gone.”

Having had the pleasure of going myself, I can certainly attest to this. However, Bruges has gained a certain notoriety since In Bruges, so is it really all that bad?

Pros: It’s like a fairytale isn’t it? Charming Irishmen running about the place, easy access to guns, drugs and hookers, apparently, cobbled streets, and a tower with quite a view (and drop). Also makes you incredibly quotable.

Cons: Racist midgets (those little fellas sure like to get around don’t they?), a snarling Ralph Fiennes chasing you about the place, an average of 1.18 utterings of ‘fuck’ a minute (for those with delicate ears), it’s in Belgium.

Verdict: Way more exciting than you expect it to be. Go now. Also, there’s a good fondue restaurant there.


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What the guidebook says: “Every visitor goes home with their own unforgettable images. Such a large country, straddling temperate and tropical zones, reaching 5km into the sky and stretching 10,000km along its coasts, with a city of 19 million people at its center and countless tiny pueblos everywhere, can hardly fail to provide a huge variety of options for human adventure.”

Lovely hey? Well, it certainly looks that way in Y Tu Mama Tambien.

Pros: Constant excitement because your life is one big hormone-fuelled road trip. Incredible scenery, feeling the pulsating rhythm of a country exploring and reinventing its own identity in a modern world, getting to hang out with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.

Cons: Having a voiceover guy reveal the often sad truth behind some of the incidents you encounter in the country, thereby showing you another face of Mexico, the naivety and exuberance of youth being ultimately fickle and callous, getting to pleasure both Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna at the same time (maybe not such a con for some of our readers…)

Verdict: Worth it for the scenery and the soundtrack, plus, if a trip to Mexico is even half as exuberant and exciting as this movie, it’s going to be the best trip of your life.

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What the guidebook says: “Sarajevo has charm: rattly old trams circle a city centre containing the BašÄaršija bazaar, an ancient trading place with artisans’ workshops, coffee drinking dens, restaurants, cosy bars and endless souvenir choices. Further west the Ottoman traces disappear and the city takes on its other guise of a proud Austro-Hungarian colonial capital.”

Well, who wants to read a guidebook anyway?! We’re basing our holiday arbitrarily on films we’ve seen. This is why, for my guide, I’ve chosen Michael Winterbottom’s harrowing Welcome To Sarajevo, set during the war.

Pros: Umm…

Cons: A city and people on the brink of annihilation, a siege meaning terrible conditions for the population, rife internal crime, seizing of children by Serbian soldiers, sniper attacks, heartbreaking scenes of a musician playing a sorrowful song to mark the descent of Sarajevo into the world’s most terrible place.

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Verdict: Who bases where they go on films?! What a stupid idea anyway. Don’t go to any war torn cities in the past, kids.


What the guidebook says: “In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

Quite. The magical land of Howl‘s Moving Castle may not be top of many people’s must-visit list, but it does have several advantages to offer.

Pros: Hard to get to, so not many tourists. Magic! People fly about due to actual magic! Billy Crystal is a wise-cracking fire demon. There are cool steampunk-style helicopter bikes to use if you’re blessed with magical powers. Moving houses are a must-have fashion accessory. So are capes.

Cons: Wizard Howl apparently eats young girls’ hearts. Sucks to be them. He also turns into a frightening bird creature on occasion, an e vil witch may cast a spell on you, turning you into an ancient old woman, there’s a war going on featuring massive flying dreadnought ships with big wings. Actually that last one is possibly a pro. The ending of the film might not make a whole heap of sense.

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Verdict: Although difficult to reach due to its imaginary nature, Ingary will surely be up there in 2011 travel lists. Get there while it’s still undiscovered.

So, there you have it. Who needs to do detailed factual research on a destination when filmmakers have done all the hard work for you? Just be lazy. It’s January, after all. Start as you mean to go on.

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