Part two of my series of lockdown watching tips (here is part one). This time I asked my film producer friends to recommend a series or film, “old or new, fiction or doc, serious or fun.”
Most of the producers on this list are film (not TV) producers, so I found it interesting that most of their recommendations were series, not feature films.
But I totally get it, I’ve been churning through lots of series on lockdown: finally started SCHITT’S CREEK, thought CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM was at its best in season 10, NORMAL PEOPLE I found flawless (and devastating), enjoying THE LAST DANCE (I am still a Tarheel even if I’m not a sports person), inspired by the designs in my reality-TV fix MAKING THE CUT, and for my American comfort TV, delved into medical drama NEW AMSTERDAM. Oh and I even tried Quibi, which I 99% hated except for WHEN THE STREETLIGHTS GO ON. Does NAT’S WHAT I RECKON count as a series, because I’m in love with that dude and his swearing. And Stanley Tucci’s online cocktail masterclasses of course...
Oh dear, I’m getting carried away with myself, better turn it over to the producers:
Ursula Wolschlager, Austria (Kaviar) During lockdown I watched the final season of HOMELAND which was released bit by bit in the last weeks. Now the absolute final episode is out and I’m pushing it in front of me to watch it. The Corona crisis plus saying farewell to Carrie Mathison seems a slight bit too much to handle.
Kate Separovich, Australia (Dirt Music) MYSTERY ROAD series 2 has just started a couple of weeks ago on ABC Australia (Series 1 is available internationally on Acorn TV I think). The landscapes of my home state are incredible onscreen. Great story and characters. The locations and people that made it are very close to my heart so watching this is a way of connecting, supporting and dreaming of when we can get back to work!
Really trying to #watchaustralianmade to support the industry over here.
Jacob Jarek, Denmark (Valhalla)
ZEROZEROZERO. I was captivated by the journey this great TV series adaptation (of Robert Saviano's book) took me on. We are in the footsteps of the global drug industry, and whether we are in Italy, Mexico, Morocco or the open seas I am fascinated by how much evil the series portrays, and in how many forms this evil is manifested. It ties three storylines together in a very complex way and has a truly fascinating and ambiguous last shot.
Tom Waller, Thailand (The Cave)
THE HANDMAID'S TALE - Season 1-3 (Hulu). Let's face it, as frightening as it might be, seems like we're heading towards a totalitarian society whether we like it or not. So we might as well see how pear-shaped it might all end up...The amazing Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes will keep you glued to your Hulu for this grim depiction of a near future. But every episode is so heartfelt, gut wrenching and suspenseful that you will easily drift through the first 3 seasons impatiently waiting for the next! [filming on hold due to Covid-19 outbreak]
HOME BEFORE DARK (Apple+). This excellent teen mystery series created by Dana Fox and Dara Resnik, inspired by the life of a real life young journalist girl, proves that Apple promises to be a serious contender. It had me hooked after the first episode (directed by Jon M. Chu) and you end up flying through 9 more episodes - like the inquisitive characters in the story now I just have to know what happens next! Thankfully, season 2 is confirmed...
Andrea Reuter, Finland (Tove) My recommendation is HIGH MAINTENANCE (on HBO). The aptly named series follows The Guy, a weed dealer in Brooklyn who in each episode meets different people. We get to see interesting characters from all walks of life, always told in a heartwarming and entertaining way. It’s funny, it’s surprising (in the episode ”Grandpa" the story is told from the perspective of a dog) and a total love letter to Brooklyn. What started as a shoestring budget series on Vimeo by the creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair has grown to become one of the most authentic (and effective!) depictions of the human condition.
Katja Adomeit, Denmark (Wolf and Sheep) My film recommendation is Fatih Akin’s GOLDEN GLOVE. The environment Fatih is describing is genius, the dialogue and acting is so true and detailed. I admire Fatih for his braveness, with every project he challenges himself. Jonas Dassler as Fritz Honka is absolutely amazing. I have seen it together with my partner and a friend and we have been Googling and talking about this film for many days after.
Farah Abushwesha, UK (The Singapore Grip)
My series recommendation is the podcast WEST CORK. I was late to the table on this one but it grabbed and held my attention. There is something so tragic, dark and yet comical about it. Ian Bailey is such a complex central, real life character - you can’t stop listening. You kind of understand the curious and yet voyeuristic tourism of the people travelling to West Cork to catch a glimpse of him selling food at the farmers market ostracised by the locals. And then there’s the local community, those who did and didn’t see something around the time of the murder - it’s all marvellous in life-is-stranger-than-fiction kind of way until you remember that there is an unsolved, savage murder of a young mother at the heart of this true crime series.
Grimar Jonsson, Iceland (Rams)
THE LAST DANCE on Netflix. MJ was my biggest idol for quite some time and this behind the scenes docu-series is brilliant. But I would only recommend it to basketball fans.
Julie Goldman, US (Life, Animated)
We watched CATCH-22 Miniseries on Hulu and it was a fantastic adaptation of a book we loved - which had been already a wonderfully adapted film but the series went further into the book and teased out more from the book than could fit into a film. The casting was spot on and the acting quite strong. Just good all around.
Elhum Shakerifar, UK (A Syrian Love Story) I have been re-visiting some of my favourite films these past weeks - from PRESSURE by Horace Ové to UNDER THE SKIN OF THE CITY by Rakhshan Bani Etemad - but the film that enchanted me the most to revisit recently was TOUKI BOUKI by Djibril Diop Mambéty for its fantasy to dream away society's constraints, life's complicated realities, to travel to the greener grass with the enabling arrogance of youth as your only baggage. At a time where we're bound to own homes and realities, existentially confronted with our life choices and our government's ineptitude, journeying into other times, places and perspectives through film has been both grounding and inspiring.
Birgitta Björnsdóttir, Iceland (The Swan)
I watched MAKING THE CUT on Amazon Prime, I do love my creative reality shows. And for some reason, I´m really enjoying THE LAST DANCE, and I don´t even watch basketball! It´s probably because I´m getting old and I love watching interviews with people ;) Also I was 14 when this was happening, and I really remember watching the NBA finals, even though I haven’t watched it since.
Sol Bondy, Germany (The Tale)
I recently watched and really enjoyed MARADONA. Such a tragic tale of a hero that flies so high and falls so terribly hard, mixing with the wrong crowds, a victim of circumstance, too. I loves how Asif Kapadia avoided talking heads and only used footage from the ‘80s mostly. Incredible stuff. One interesting point is that it’s amazing that we children of the ‘80s and ‘90s are kind of okay still since many of our childhood heroes completely crashed…Maradona, Michael Jackson, Prince, etc. At last Jordan is still out there.. And yeah, go and watch THE LAST DANCE!
Nina Bisgaard, Sweden (Border)
My best Corona recommendation is the Norwegian documentary THE MEN’S ROOM from 2019. Is there anything better really than those films that preferably hits hard on both the laugh and cry center in the soul and brain? And even though cancer is involved, you feel uplifted from watching it? I think that is a good corona recommendation. Watching it, is like being in the company of a bunch of Norwegian, middle-aged beer-drinking guys joking around, who also enjoys singing dirty in a choir. And the heartbreaking part is that the choir leader is deadly sick.
Roman Paul, Germany (The Perfect Candidate)
Here on our home screen the ‘80s revival is in full swing and we ushered it in with a film I had never seen but which is quite brilliant: BAD TIMING by Nicolas Roeg. With Theresa Russell formidable as ever (where is she hiding these days?) but the real surprise is the cast member that had kept me away from the film up to now: Art Garfunkel. A simply sublime performance of a deeply disturbing and disturbed character in a deeply disturbing film. Then Roeg offers you a wonderful farewell scene with an only-in-this-film- rendition of the country classic “Dreaming My Dreams” - Thank God they didn’t have the money for the original track. On top of it all, the film reminds me of a trip to Vienna in the ‘80s with friends - the vibe, the love, the look, the films. Highly recommended!
Vaughan Sivell, UK (Prevenge)
My series recommendation is YES MINISTER written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. We are gradually watching from the very beginning. It's the best of cosy British satire. The incredible cast of Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds (all no longer with us sadly) seamlessly weave the intrigues of politics into charming intelligent lunacy that really IS at the heart of Britain. Set in the early ‘80s it's a time capsule of history in some ways (there are no female MPs to be seen, and the interior design is often eye-watering!). But politically it seems totally timeless, in fact fresher than ever. A brilliantly written satire of British life.
Jussi Rantamäki, Finland (The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki)
I watched SUCCESSION (finally) and loved it. Especially the acting. Whatever happens in the series, I could just watch it with my mouth open as all the actors are such geniuses.
Brian Newman, US (The Outside Story)
My favorite series of the lockdown has been UNORTHODOX - Shira Haas is amazing, as are the supporting cast, and it's perfect at just four episodes. I hope they don't ruin it by making more.
Ashley Horner, UK (The Hippies: Punk Rocked My Cradle)
I have been watching OZARK, just finished season 2. I was blown away by episode one of season one. Performances were superb, direction and editing tight and thrilling. And at the end we learn that Jason Bateman, the star of the series, also directed it. Mind Blown. Am loving all of it so far, apart Peter Mullan’s dodgy accent!!!
Mia Bays, UK (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man)
I’m watching WOMEN MAKE FILM, the upcoming 13 hour documentary by Mark Cousins, which we are doing a big piece of Reclaim The Frame spotlighting work on from mid May. It’s like 13 hours of the most inspiring film school imaginable because it features clips of films by 179 female directors from every continent, every era and every genre. It’s heaven. I spend every minute of it taking notes because it’s a gift to watch as a filmmaker and then as a gender equality agitator, the other part of me is raging when I’ve not heard of the film/the filmmaker or have forgotten them (that’s a conspiracy I’m certain).
Andy Brunskill, UK (Jet Trash)
DEVS is brilliant. And EUPHORIA is the best show of all time.
Katie Holly, Ireland (Love & Friendship)
The obvious is NORMAL PEOPLE which I adored for so many reasons. Also, I started re-watching THE WEST WING -- it has been like a cosy blanket in a very surreal time to watch a show that features empathetic and passionate leaders that care about people, each other, and about effecting lasting, positive change for their country and community, even when there aren’t easy choices. Call me naive but isn’t that the minimum people should insist upon from their representatives? The writing, cast and filming style also all so top notch.
Giorgos Karnavas, Greece (Pari)
Well I am one of the many that got trapped in the nets of TIGER KING. I couldn't believe my eyes. Such a unique universe and so truthful about what life can become -so irrational and so meaningless. And from the features I watched (again) the one that stayed with me is LUCKY with Harry Dean Stanton. Graceful film, and it feels like you go on a trip as well.
Diana Williams, US (Star Wars: Rebels)
THE KINGDOM. Not only is it a fresh take on the zombie genre in which you think the "rules" are one thing but they are actually another, it is also a look at Korea in an era that most western audiences know nothing about. The approach and, in my opinion based on nothing, adherence to the way the royal system worked then is akin to how well researched a historical documentary is on A&E. Also I can sum up the visual gorgeousness in one word: hats.
Lorianne Hall, UK (Shoplifters of the World) I recommend THE DURRELLS. I find that watching heavy drama or anything too anxiety-inducing right now is hard. And like most, I am lacking in concentration and focus, so any film or series too complicated or challenging isn't enjoyable. I've been gravitating to lighter, happier period shows and films, when the world was less complicated and innocent. I skipped watching this when it came out as it looked a bit too fluffy and saccharine on the surface. It looks superficial but has so much depth. I loved being transported out of modern day Covid times and into a pre-WWII Corfu. I found the period and location of the series relaxing and therapeutic and such a wonderful escape from confinement. The eccentric and colorful characters are heartwarming and fun and tonally the series is a delight. And the animals! Being such an animal lover myself this series has everything I needed to brighten my day. Except for the final episode (season 4 finale) which left me in bits (a much needed cry - very cathartic)! Well written, directed and acted, this was one of the most pleasurable series I watched and was pure well-crafted escapism. I was depressed the whole day after I finished it as I missed the characters and location so much. I'm now planning a trip to Corfu next year!
Natasha Dack, UK (The Lovers & The Despot) I’ve got a highbrow/lowbrow combo: I stumbled across F FOR FAKE on YouTube recently. It’s the Orson Welles 1973 essay film about an art forger and the forger's biographer, who had also published a fake biography about Howard Hughes. Welles is at the heart of it; when not in front of a Steenbeck or performing magic tricks, he's eating huge platters of lobsters and steak in restaurants with friends, meditating on the beauty of Chartres cathedral, and reminiscing about the fakes he perpetrated in his own career from pretending to be a famous American actor as a young man in Ireland to broadcasting The War of the Worlds. He continually wrong foots the audience in this film, which is ostensibly about hoaxes but turns out to ultimately be a hoax itself. Very modern! If I hadn’t become a producer I would have liked to have a career in design or textiles, so fashion based reality shows are my guilty pleasure. I recently watched Amazon’s MAKING THE CUT, basically Next in Fashion and Project Runway in a new suit. The winning outfit from each show is instantly available to buy on Amazon, and the overall show winner gets a deal with them. I think this might be called retail-tainment? Anyway, someone needs to give Naomi Campbell her own show. Her indignation when she feels a contestant has disrespected ‘haute couture’ is priceless.
Uzma Hasan, UK (The Infidel)
My tip for some lighthearted Corona viewing is the comedy classic GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. I watched it because I wanted some unadulterated fun and pre #MeToo feminism. It’s a perfectly structured script that never lets up pace, has cracking musical numbers and that breathless non-stop dialogue. At the heart are two 'ride or die' girlfriends whose non judgmental love for each other is never in doubt. And yes, they do end up in a rather traditional arrangement but none of that matters because each of them gets exactly what she wants and needs. They own the final frame. Delightful.
Manon Ardisson, UK (God’s Own Country)
My recommendation is THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL, an animated series on Netflix by Pendleton Ward who also created Adventure Time. I love his animation style, the visuals are stunning, colourful, trippy and magical. And this is very much a series for adults (as much as millennials can ever be adults), featuring deep conversations about psychedelics, meditation, forgiveness and love, on a backdrop of chaos and destruction. Perfect fit for my lockdown life.
Madeleine Molyneaux, US (Dawson City: Frozen Time)
THE FALL, seasons 1-3. Missed it in its initial release, and spurred on by Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters titular reference to a line of dialogue delivered by DSI Stella Gibson, this series has all that I require for quarantine escapism - detective moves, childhood trauma sub-plots, Belfast brogue, dream journaling, crisp tailoring and the always captivating Gillian Anderson.
Helen Ahlsson, Sweden (Pure)
I had my guilty pleasure with 007 (Viaplay have the whole collection now online, what a treat). Love the crazy and totally unmodern sexism combined with the British humor. Another quarantine favourite is of course THE FAVOURITE. So rich in storytelling in so many ways. The superb acting, costume, props, the flow in the editing, all the twist and turns got me so involved. I was really with them instead of my boring living room.
Konstantinos Kontovrakis, Greece (Still River)
I like to watch new films in the cinema (not possible right now) to support the industry I work in. I don’t have a TV, I don’t have Netflix. But I realised that, in fact, I am a subscriber to some sort of VOD platform. It’s the private platform that the European Film Academy reserves for its members and where most of the European national nominations of the last years are available online. So, here’s my chance (or our chance, as I should include my partner in this) to watch films.
A set of rules had to be established, so that it feels like a movie night: we both have to agree on the films we watch, they shouldn’t be too long (because then my partner falls asleep) and they shouldn’t be too depressing, because no one is in the mood for depressing films these days and, let’s admit it, European films tend to be depressing.
First I recommend the Finnish A DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI due to its impeccable sense of youthful energy, exuding from every single frame of the film. Second, the Belgian THE ARDENNES due to its imposing mise-en-scene and the cynical irony of it all (the latter is also a film whose script writing process I followed through a workshop I attended in my first steps as a producer, the Binger Film Lab, which made the experience even more pleasant).
Thanks to everyone who sent in tips!