When it comes to Netflix, we usually know about the big films and TV shows long in advance: think The Baby-Sitters Club, Hollywood, and The Politician, to name just three. As this year has proven, though, sometimes the best things really do catch you by surprise.
Over the past few months, we’ve fallen for the likes of Tiger King, Unorthodox, Crashing Into You, and countless others – the majority of which we’ve either stumbled across on the streaming platform by accident, seen trending on Twitter, or been ordered to watch by our friends and family.
“You have to watch this,” they’ll say, every single time you speak. “It’s incredible.”
Now, the Netflix series being spread by word-of-mouth is Homemade, an anthology of 17 short films made in response to the coronavirus pandemic from some of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers. Some focus on family, others on pandemic-friendly technology (think Zoom and TikTok). Some have been shot on iPhones and handheld cameras, others with drones and more sophisticated filmmaking equipment. All, though, have been made during the Covid-19 quarantine – and not one director has broken social distancing rules.
As per Netflix’s synopsis: “Filmed using only equipment found at home, the stories range from intimate diaries of the filmmakers’ day-to-day life to short tales of fiction across multiple genres, offering a magnifying glass over how the lockdown impacted different countries and lives around the world.”
Divided up into chapters that range from four to 11 minutes, Homemade is extremely watchable, and most of the episodes feel deeply satisfying (bar a very small few). However, as Netflix has urged viewers to “watch these short films in any order”, we’ve decided to cherry-pick our six favourites from the mix, to ensure you kick off your binge-session with a bang.
You’re very welcome.
Spaces – Natalia Beristáin
The star of this beautiful short film is Jacinta – aka the daughter of filmmaker Natalia Beristáin. Not much happens, true, but there’s something oddly captivating about a small child left to her own devices in an increasingly empty world.
“Homemade gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my [craft] during this peculiar times, so even though I still don’t have a rational explanation to what we’re experiencing globally, having the privilege to watch my kid so close and attentively for this past weeks enable me to start understating this whole situation in a more intuitive and sensorial way,” says Beristáin.
“Spaces is a reflection of this.”
Penelope – Maggie Gyllenhaal
Perhaps the most ambitious of the bunch, Penelope sees Maggie Gyllenhaal turn her camera lens on her husband, Peter Sarsgaard, as she imagines him making a life for himself after an apocalypse wipes out most of humanity, messes with the laws of physics, and stops his toaster from working, too.
Last Call – Pablo Larrain
In this short film, we are introduced to an old man making a video call to a long lost lover. As he admits his feelings and regrets for a different life, it’s all too easy to assume that this will be a bittersweet slice of human drama. But…
Hmm. Let’s just say, things take a seriously unexpected (and kinky) twist.
“Extremely proud and excited to be part of this wonderful work, which we all did from home,” says Larrain. “Very curious to know the people’s reaction.”
Crickets – Kristen Stewart
“Art that is born of restriction has a way of becoming itself in a surprising and cosmic sort of way and short films by nature don’t have to abide by any rules which really opens up the idea of what a movie can do,” Stewart says.
“I was so grateful for and liberated by this idea. It was a huge gift to be encouraged to make something out of this strange nothingness. I hope this series inspires people to do the same.”
Ferosa – David Mackenzie
We all might think we’ve had it tough in lockdown, but imagine how hard it must be for teenagers who had just tasted independence for the first-time. It’s this perspective that Glasgow-based David Mackenzie chooses to show us, enlisting his 16-year-old daughter, Ferosa, to help.
Mackenzie says: “I have long been interested in trying to make intimate film portraits of people, so I took the opportunity to do so with my daughter who had just turned 16 under lockdown.
“No true portrait is made without an intense interplay between the subject, who has to deal with what of themselves to present and expose, and the portrait maker. So, over seven days in May, Ferosa and I – with the help of the rest of the family – went through a turbulent dance to try to capture the waves of mixed emotions that were washing over her and to express it to a camera that was closer and more present than any film-making I have ever done.”
Clichy-Montfermil – Ladj-Ly
This is the drone masterpiece everyone’s been talking about. Ladj-Ly’s short film begins indoors as a young boy dedicates himself to his schoolwork during lockdown. All the while he’s studying, though, he’s sneaking glances out the window. Finally, he powers up his drone and sends it soaring into the skies above Paris for a sweet taste of freedom.
Movie buffs: please note that Ladj-Ly recreates the same aerial shot of Montfermeil that he gave us in his feature Les Misérables. And it’s every bit as breathtaking.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.