Exports of American-made DVDs to countries all over the world have been a fact of home video life for a half decade, for a very simple reason: more DVD titles, with more extras, have been released more quickly in the U.S. than anywhere else. Lacking an adequate supply of locally made DVDs, foreign owners of DVD players developed a voracious appetite for U.S. imports. Until recently, the converse has not been true. Yes, DVDs of Asian action films have been shipped from Hong Kong to the U.S. for several years, and foreign-made “ethnic” DVDs could be found in some big American cities, but these were exceptions rather than the rule. Within the past year or so, the American import situation has begun to change, again for a simple reason: foreign video companies have begun to release DVDs of many sought-after titles (including American films) that have not been released, and may never be released, by U.S. video companies. But caveat emptor. Before you think you've entered DVD paradise, there are still some serious obstacles to the enjoyment of imports—and some of them may prove insurmountable.
You can read the complete version of this article in the January/February print edition of Film Comment.