Movies get creative during coronavirus lockdown

Two series from Israel and abroad examine life in today’s bizarre and often scary reality.

'The Dead Don't Die' (photo credit: Courtesy)
'The Dead Don't Die'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Much entertainment is escapism, but two series from Israel and abroad examine life in today’s bizarre and often scary reality.
Isolation Stories is a British series on YesVOD that features four short films that, due to the pandemic, were written and filmed entirely in lockdown.
The actors followed social distancing guidelines, and in some cases their own family members appeared with them in the films.
You might think that all these restrictions would compromise the quality, but the two that were released to the press are polished and entertaining.
In the first part, Mel, Sheridan Smith plays the title character, a pregnant woman grappling with her decision to have her baby even though the baby’s father has no intention of staying in her life. It starts out with Mel being snarky and pretending she can’t get online during her co-workers’ Zoom call and ends with her gradually exposing her vulnerability and her raw emotions. Even though it’s less than 15 minutes, Smith gives a fine performance.
David Threlfall is the standout in the fourth film, Karen, as Brian, the father of a woman who has left her husband, Stephen (Eddie Marsan, who plays Terry on Ray Donovan and who portrayed Shimon Peres in 7 Days in Entebbe), and children (played by Marsan’s real-life kids) to live with another man.
Stephen is falling apart, angry at his estranged wife and worried about being furloughed from his job. When Brian keeps showing up to clown around and exercise with his grandchildren through a glass window, he is the last person Stephen wants to see. But Brian knows the pandemic is no time to hold back, and he levels with Stephen in a way that gets through his layers of defenses.
A similar Israeli series, 100-Meter Radius, is running on HOT3 and HOT VOD throughout the month of June. Like Isolation Stories, it was made just now, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, while its creators observed the Health Ministry guidelines.
Its list of directors and actors reads like a who’s who of the Israeli entertainment industry, with actors such as Orna Banai, Ninet Tayeb and Dana Ivgy taking part, and directors and writers including Guy Nattiv, whose short film Skin won an Oscar, who worked with his wife, Jaime Ray Newman, to make their film.
Another interesting development during this period is the fact that the crime drama series The Blacklist, which runs on Netflix, has just released its season 7 finale. The episode was completed while its actors were in isolation, matching animated scenes with dialogue the actors recorded at home. The resulting episode works very well and will satisfy fans desperate to know how it all turns out.
Do you feel that you would like to know more about Jeffrey Epstein and his sex crimes? Neither do I, but if you know anyone who does, they can watch the Netflix series about him, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.
It is four episodes composed mainly of interviews with a few of his victims and video of depositions in which he testified.
Learning the details of how he manipulated the media and suppressed early reports about his pedophilia is of mild interest, as is the insight that were it not for the #MeToo movement, he never would have been brought to justice. But it would make more sense just to read an article about him than to sit through four agonizing episodes that dredge it all up again.
If you just want to watch something tongue-in-cheek and silly, tune into Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, which is partly a real zombie flick and partly a parody of all those undead shows and films. It’s running on Cellcom TV, Yes 3 on June 6 at 10 p.m. and YesVOD 24/7 and HOT Cinema 1.
Jarmusch is one of the earliest kings of US indie cinema, and the film features an appropriately cooler-than-thou cast, including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi, RZA of Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Waits. For some reason, the film was barely shown in theaters in Israel, so this is your chance if you missed it.