A new British sci-fi film was one of the hottest must-see movies at last week's South by Southwest film festival. But it might not get a U.S. release ... because it's in English.
Despite rave reviews from a number of websites and strong audience reaction at the Austin festival, Heat Vision has speculated on why Attack the Block—about a group of inner-city London teens who fight off an alien invasion—did not pick up a distribution deal.
The reason? It's in English.
Yes, Attack the Block (see the trailer here) is in English—but a heavily accented slang spoken in the London slums that apparently has some American distributors wondering if U.S. audiences will be able to understand what the kids are saying. Two scenarios have sprung up as a result: The movies goes out with subtitles, or someone picks up the remake rights and does a North American version.
The online geek film community has been polarized by this. Some feel that if subtitles help get the film in front of audiences, then let it be subtitled. Others think that the movie should be shown unaltered in any way. It was pointed out by one blogger that no one minds when Japanese monster movies are subtitled—although the idea of subtitling a movie that's actually in English seems bizarre. No one seems to be in favor of a remake.
The bottom line is that Attack the Block is still a small independent film about inner-city youths in London—not exactly material that's made for the multiplexes anyway. Any studio who picks it up and thinks they're going to have the box-office numbers of a Battle: Los Angeles is kidding itself, so you might as well let the movie be shown without alterations.
Badass Digest has a nice roundup of the fierce Twitter debate on the issue here. In the meantime, what do you think? Should a movie spoken in English slang get subtitles? Would that make it more appealing to a wider audience? Or would you be willing to track down Attack the Block at an art-house theatre and see it unchanged?