Premise: Confined at home as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, filmmakers created personal, moving stories that capture our shared experience of life in quarantine.
Call me an optimist, but one of the positives to come out of a worldwide pandemic has been the emergence of fresh ideas from creative voices in making and distributing new content. Not only have studios reimagined new ways to distribute films, but creators have found refreshing methods of making fresh and inventive content. Independent cinema has never been more accessible and I have personally discovered many new and exciting talents worth recommending over the past few months. Enter Netflix’s Homemade, the first “season” of which is available to stream now.
While billed as a season of television, it’s more of a collection of short films, put together from various filmmakers across the world. While the films are unrelated – in that they can be watched in any order because the stories don’t flow from one film to the next – they are connected thematically. Each film was written, directed, and performed by its respective filmmaker while experiencing their various quarantines across the world. “We are all in this together” has been a popular rallying cry throughout the pandemic, but Homemade provides a way of visually presenting the sentiment, showing the interconnectedness of humanity in times of strife.
One of Netflix’s smartest decisions in producing Homemade was giving its creators total creative freedom to make their films. Setting parameters on the subject matter or tone or running time, or attempting to craft an overarching story could have worked, but the end result is much more indicative of each director’s sensibilities. Almost every short film tackles a different aspect of the pandemic and life in quarantine, with some leaning more towards the dramatic, some comedic, some experimental, and some with more of a documentary approach. The work ranges from directors that are slightly more obscure, to more figures with larger reputations.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (directing her first film, short or otherwise) takes a sci-fi approach, viewing the virus as a more menacing presence. Showing the point of view of an isolated man in the countryside, the virus has caused the moon’s orbit to move startlingly close to Earth, and the only dialogue comes from a crackling radio broadcast that relays alarmingly large death tolls and rising global tensions. The environmental angle comes together nicely – and it’s clear she was working with a larger than average budget, as it’s the short with the most computer generated imagery – but the film’s conclusion leaves a little too much on the table.
My personal favorite short film is from David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water, Perfect Sense), who shoots his film like a documentary centered around his kids in Glasgow. His 16-year old daughter eventually takes center focus, and it’s striking how insightful she is as she reflects on the struggles of adjusting to her new normal with no social life, and schooling at home. Mackenzie shows the pandemic as adding a new layer to the difficulties of adolescence, and he films her in a generous light, giving weight to her situation without feeling melodramatic.
Netflix may be known as a behemoth of the streaming industry, churning out and acquiring big budget and awards-worthy projects, but Homemade provides a nice counter as a showcase for the creative process from talents big and small. There may not be any short films that feature A-list celebrities in front of the camera (with the exception of Kristen Stewart’s entry, in which she tackles the effect that quarantining has on mental health), but with each film ranging from 4 to 11 minutes, it furnishes an easy point of entry for casual viewers.
I’ve often wondered about the types of content that will emerge as a result of the pandemic; just imagine if it’s anything like the plethora of films that World War II, or even the Great Depression has birthed. With only one “season” under its belt so far (and hopefully more to come), Homemade has shown that there will surely be no lack of original stories to be told.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.