As someone viewing in the U.S., this is a time of year when streaming services bring in a lot of series and movies from other countries. Streaming platforms need to keep up the amount of content, so when major U.S. debuts slow down, you’ll see more arrive from elsewhere. It’s an amazing time of year to learn about work that would get otherwise get drowned out by our own media.
The countries with the most popular industries here debut work around the year – India, Japan, and South Korea, for instance. Any time of year is good to find new work arriving from them, but these are the months when you’ll see their less internationally-minded shows as well – there have been a number of Japanese broadcast series (like “MIU404”) arriving on Netflix over the past month.
Countries that have less regular audiences in the U.S. see their filmmakers push through this time of year. Two of my favorite shows from last year were Polish modern dark fantasy “Cracow Monsters” and Turkish time travel mystery “Midnight at the Pera Palace”. They may be different genres, but they represent something interesting about much of the work that gets picked up here. It tends to be rebellious, feminist, and anti-fascist, and represents a conflict between artists and autocratic governments.
Some streaming services are cutting this content. After Warner Bros. Discovery acquired HBO, they not only cut series from Eastern Europe and the Middle East that were already streaming, they closed down their production offices in these countries, eliminating any future co-productions. Both HBO Max and Showtime have adopted a growing trend of making new series disappear just months after they conclude, in the name of tax write-offs and not having to pay residuals.
For all of its other problems, Netflix does remain the best by far in terms of bringing content from outside the U.S. here, both in aggressive licensing of smaller shows that would otherwise never have a chance of being seen by U.S. audiences., and in an increasing number of co-productions in other countries. Hulu and Amazon have also been pretty good at this.
Some of these situations are tough – Amazon is genuinely horrific about labor rights. At the same time, through co-productions, Netflix and Amazon have essentially kept the window open on Indian women filmmakers’ freedom of speech in a brinksmanship situation over strict censorship by the Indian government.
Streaming services are at a dangerous fork in the road. Some are cutting new content if it underperforms expectations they made up because it lets them essentially run the plot of “The Producers” but successfully: making money off of a loss. Others see American viewers’ increasing appetite for series and movies from around the world, as well as the opportunity to create footholds with international audiences via co-productions.
Which way do things go? I don’t really know, but if you want the opportunity to see what the rest of the world is doing and saying, you’ve got to watch their storytelling. Without audiences for them, we will see the approach of HBO Max and Showtime grow, our perspective and what we have access to narrowing once more. But if audiences continue to demonstrate our interest and appetite for the world’s filmmaking, we’ll see what we have access to continue to increase. And we’ll find favorites. We’ll have more to talk about. New ways to enjoy. Seek out what you truly want to see, not just what gets the advertising money here.
New series by women come from Kuwait and the U.S., and new movies from Australia, Spain, and the U.S.
The Exchange (Netflix)
showrunner Nadia Ahmad
Set in 1987, this Kuwaiti series tells the story of two women who became the first traders in the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Nadia Ahmad writes and showruns the six-episode show.
You can watch “The Exchange” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out immediately.
showrunner Lauren Iungerich
mostly directed by women
A disfunctional group of school friends accidentally release a curse. The sibling rivals at its center need to work together to undo it.
Lauren Iungerich showruns the standalone spin-off to “On My Block”. She previously wrote and directed on “Awkward.” and “Boo, Bitch”. Iungerich and Paula Garces direct 5 of the 8 episodes between them.
You can watch “Freeridge” on Netflix. All episodes released at the same time.
Not Dead Yet (ABC, Hulu)
co-showrunner Casey Johnson
Gina Rodriguez stars as Nell, who’s trying to resume her career as a journalist. She gets stuck writing obituaries, but for better or worse finds the deceased are willing to help her out.
Casey Johnson showruns with David Windsor. Johnson’s produced and wrote on “This Is Us”, “Trophy Wife”, and cult hit “Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23”.
You can watch “Not Dead Yet” on ABC or Hulu. Two episodes just premiered, and a new one lands every Wednesday.
Your Place or Mine (Netflix)
directed by Aline Brosh McKenna
Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher star in a romantic comedy aiming for a Valentine’s Day audience. They play best friends who live across the country, but they swap places for a week and he takes care of her son so she can take a break.
The supporting cast is notable – Shiri Appleby, Rachel Bloom, Zoe Chao, Tig Notaro, and Steve Zahn all co-star.
Writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna co-created “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with Bloom, and wrote and directed on that series. She also wrote “The Devil Wears Prada”, “We Bought a Zoo”, “27 Dresses”, and “Morning Glory”. Chances are pretty solid you’ve seen something she’s written. She started out writing on 90s Margaret Cho sitcom “All-American Girl”.
You can watch “Your Place or Mine” on Netflix.
True Spirit (Netflix)
directed by Sarah Spillane
Based on real events, this Australian film recounts Jessica Walton becoming the youngest person to sail non-stop around the globe.
Director and co-writer Sarah Spillane started out as an actress in Australian series, but shifted over to crew positions starting with “Rabbit-Proof Fence” in 2002.
You can watch “True Spirit” on Netflix.
directed by Carlota Pereda
As an overweight teen, Sara has to deal with bullying and harassment every day. Summer is a special horror, but it turns on a dime when someone begins abducting her tormentors.
The Spanish film is directed by Carlota Pereda, who has helmed a number of series in Spain. She’s talked about how the film has helped her discuss being similarly bullied as a teen.
You can watch “Piggy” on Hulu, or see where you can rent it.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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