These films are shot on camera phones by world-famous directors who are as isolated as you and I during this pandemic.
“We are learning new things about this virus every day,” the researchers and doctors announce and as you grind the coffee beans for your first cup of the day, you wonder if you want to do the morning chores around the house or simply stare at the sea.
How easily we have adapted to living with ourselves some of you say. Others are still struggling to keep the volumes of family members down to a minimum. Still others are coping with work from home and find time to post pictures of exotic foods they cooked. You miss the interaction with others and also wonder why you want to murder some of the people you live with.
Netflix has great timing. And today I am going to recommend not one, not two but seventeen short films. Each shot on camera phones by world-famous directors who are as isolated as you and I during this pandemic.
The series starts a little flatly, with a young lad using a drone to look at his home town Montfermeil (France), but the director made the incredible 2019 version of Les Miserables so I shrug and hope that it won’t be a repeat of strange short films we made at the film school. I am rewarded for my patience.
My heart was wrung and filled with tears again and again as I watched a film which is like a video of memory from mother to her son, who is growing up in isolation. She hopes that he remembers this time not for the fears that grown-ups feel for the young ones, but as a time with family. The gratitude is so overwhelming, it made me call my family spread all around the world just to hear their voices.
Another film in the series is called Johnny Ma. If you have a love-hate relationship with your mother - who overwhelms you with ‘how come you don’t want to follow tradition’ to ‘why can’t you be a good son (or a daughter)’ -- then this film will show you how much of our mothers are inside us. It is a joyful celebration of the differences and shot in a setting which you always imagined you’d want to escape to someday.
Speaking of mothers, Gurinder Chaddha, of Bend It Like Beckham fame shares her many personal losses during this pandemic. Losing elderly women who have been her connection to her family and her sense of belonging to Punjab must be simply awful. But having this mad family around her where she’s constantly filming her twins is an interesting take on how to deal with the isolation. For someone like me who likes the quiet, this home video just felt very loud. But it made me call the child unit who is currently isolated five thousand miles away…
Speaking of noisy kids, you will love this director’s one-shot take on his daughter who is in his office. The little kid has so much imagination, she could fill notebooks with her stories! Another film that again features a little girl adjusting to the space around her is marvelous. I had my heart in my mouth when I watched her cut the papaya with that sharp knife, but loved, loved, loved the film because of the terrace and how it ends with hope.
Most of us have been taught to become overachievers. But I realised the pressures on the kids today as I watched Ferosa, a film that shows us what kids think during this time of isolation. She has her family but when she admits that it’s okay to have friends to talk to, but when their other friends join in, they ignore you completely, you are happy that you are all grown up and don’t need people...
Bah! A little voice in my head says you had better admit that you are going a little stir crazy in the head like one of the films, no? To be stuck in a routine and then meeting the you who sleeps, who sings, who works? Fun little film that was.
You will enjoy it as I did the musical film about what this new reality has done to us. We obsessively clean everything, we adjust to being alone and take refuge in music we like. What then do we do when there is nothing around us? No sound but crickets mocking our isolation? I changed my opinion about the teen romance Twilight series actor Kristen Stewart when I watched her perform brilliantly in Clouds Of Sils Maria. To watch her in this film battling insomnia made me a fan.
The series also manages to push the boundaries of your imagination towards the unknown. What if the virus not only affected our planet but broke all rules and altered the moon’s gravity and brought it closer to the Earth? How will we live then? Maggie Gylenhaal’s film left me fearful but also with a lasting image of a man surrounded by little yellow butterflies…
If strange things are happening to us, then what do we do when we find almost dead strangers near our home?
Yes, there’s also a fun film where an old man in a nursing home makes a video call to his ex-girlfriend. You start with a sympathetic, ‘Aww!’ and end up laughing at his predicament! You will, as I did, imagine people you know to meet this fate!
There’s also a breakup during the lockdown film too. They break up, but cannot be thrown out because of the lockdown, and to her horror joins a dating app! You will love what happens next.
I would vote Paolo Sorrentino’s Voyage Au Bout De La Nuit as one of the best in the bunch. It’s so irreverent and so clever you sigh into your chai as you realise that the message of loneliness can be shared even when you show the Queen and the Pope…
Can a short film be as beautiful as it is ominous? Filmmaker Naomi Kawase’s film Last Message shows you how precious life is after you count the rapidly depleting number of people on this planet. It is shot so beautifully, you would want to move to Japan someday. But I save the best for the last. This film talks about perspectives. Is it just a girl riding her bicycle in an empty (so stunningly beautiful) Los Angeles? Are you the bike? Or the girl? Where exactly are we going if we are socially distancing ourselves? How has our world changed? Things are no longer the same. Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s advice is to Ride It Out.
Again, the addition of this series of short films on Netflix is beautifully timed. No matter where we live, our feelings are the same. No matter how we look, what our lives, our thoughts, anger, fears, prayers and loves are, we are an interdependent species. So until next week, stay safe indoors and cover up when you step out.Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.