Homemade Netflix Series Review
By Dima Saqfalhait
“We live according to conventions and norms. Like the calendar, the watch, and birthdays, and vacations and holidays and happy hour. But what do we do once these things are removed?”
Ana Lily Amirpour
Today’s review is a bit different from the usual. Although I committed myself this year to catching up on as many cinema classics as I can from all over the world and take you along in the journey through writing, I find myself lately gravitating towards lighter material (AKA Netflix). In these particularly unusual times, with so much uncertainty lying in the horizon, one needs the comfort of a well-made Netflix series.
Yesterday, I was intrigued by a series called Homemade (2020) on Netflix, released on the 30th of June this year. It is an Italian-Chilean anthology series of short films filmed in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Episodes vary in length between 4 and 11 minutes, so no commitment required whatsoever (I watched Sherlock before this and each one-hour-and-a-half episode felt like a film). You can always watch an episode as you wait for lunch to be ready, before going to bed, or as a breather while working from home. It is like taking a quick visit to the museum for inspiration, knowing it will stay with you after the film is over. Like this sentence that concludes the first episode in the series, in a nod to Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables (2019):
“If current times are tough, for whom is it so?”
Reminding us through drone footage from poor neighborhoods in France that many people have it much worse than the average of us in lockdown does.
The short films are made by brilliant filmmakers from around the world. I am talking about Cannes winners (Nadine Labaki, Ladj Ly), Academy Award winners (Sebastián Lelio) and BAFTA winners (Paolo Sorrentino, Rungano Nyoni, Kristen Stewart), among many others. All were filmed in self-isolation – “homemade” so to speak. Many films were shot on mobile phone cameras yet look very professional. They are personal stories improvised by artists alongside their family members and friends. They make you realize that there are countless possibilities for creativity, even in confined spaces.
“Art, in its simplest terms, is just a way to force a new perspective on to something familiar. To rip apart its definition and redefine it is the work of an artist. Our lives were familiar, and now they must be reconstructed. We must find a way to look at our lives in a new perspective. A new perspective can help you move through difficult situations. And that is why art is a way of surviving.”
You realize that our experiences in confinement are so similar after all. And are so different too, which is why the films are beautiful. You watch people just like you, losing sense of time as the days go by, going outside for their daily exercise in deserted streets, or struggling with anxiety and lack of sleep. Some are reconnecting as a family after spending too much time apart, while others are honing their cooking skills. The films look quite effortless. You can easily have a marathon with your friends where you watch all films in one night (easily doable).
My personal favorite is Paolo Sorrentino’s (Episode II) with the pope and queen. What a brilliant script. It’s very funny and unique.
Lately, I have been telling my friends that I forgot what real life meant, as if it is something that exists only on the screen. You know walking without masks, casually grabbing a coffee from a café or even going to the office. It is comforting to see your current reality reflected on the screen, knowing you are not alone in this.
For more film quotations and recommendations, you can follow Dima Saqfalhait’s Instagram account @cine.words