Around the World on Netflix

International TV and film content is where it’s at these days. Although the US does continue to produce some fairly good (and addictive content), many countries outside of the West have equally as good content which tends to (frustratingly) often fly under the radar outside of their own borders. This seems to be, in my opinion, because if it’s not critically acclaimed (i.e. the winner of a BAFTA or a film festival of some sort), then there is a lack of incentive to give it a exposure by the media in the West. Films like Oscar winning South Korean movie, Parasite for example have done a great job of gaining Western exposure – but the Academy Award win does play a significant part in why that has been possible.

In this post I’ve decided to celebrate some international content which I’ve watched on Netflix and would highly recommend you do too (if you fancy, of course).

He Even Has Your Eyes – France

A black French family find themselves in an uphill battle when they decide adopt a white baby. I honestly loved this film, it was comedic but knew when to take itself seriously too. The adoption process is not one that is free from institutional racism and this film does a good job of showing that. Similarly, although I’m sure it definitely happens, we hardly hear of cases where black families adopt white children, so for me, the film has strong premise alone that made it really interesting to watch. The couple at the heart of the film were adorable and I rooted for them at every step. Ultimately, it’s not just about race though but about love, family and perseverance.

Ajeeb Daastaans – India

These series of short films, compiled together in a two-hour ish film are simply amazing. They are able to draw you in, get you emotionally invested in the characters of the story and then – in some cases – leave you hanging. The first story is about a poor man who falls in love with the wealthy but suffering wife of his employer; seems like your typical love story at first but there is more to it then meets the eye. My favourite story is the last one which is predominately done in sign language and explores two parents trying to adapt to life with their daughter who is slowly losing her hearing. I could continue but an easier option is probably just watching for yourself! 😉

You’ve Got This – Mexico

What happens when as a woman your star is rising (you’re smoothly sailing to the top in your career) and your partner decides now is the time he wants to have a child? This is exactly the situation protagonist, Ceci finds herself in with her husband, Alex. Interestingly, she has never wanted children and so her husband sets out to prove one is a good idea – something that seems destined for failure. I enjoyed this film and the themes it tackled; also can we take a moment to appreciate just how stunning the lead actress (Esmeralda Pimentel) is?? Anyway, I’ve always been intrigued in media portrayal of women that don’t want children since growing to love Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy whose storylines predominately centred around this fact. It’s still a counter cultural in the media but actually more common then we think, so I’m interested to see how representation increases around this stance.

Diamond City – South Africa

When I say this series had me GRIPPED throughout you can believe me! After becoming entangled in a conspiracy involving government officials, her superiors at work and the human trafficking of women, lawyer Lendiwe finds herself falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison. The way this series ended had me on tenderhooks – it will definitely be a great injustice if a second season is not produced.

It’s Okay to Not be Okay – South Korea

This recent watch of mine really melted my heart. It has been on my radar for a while and has come highly recommended by friends, and I can now see why. It’s gentle and nuanced portrayal of mental health makes it a realistic, encouraging and I’m sure even relatable watch for many. I love how each episode is themed around a different children’s story and the significant investment this show makes in each character’s personal development. At its heart it’s about the power and meaning of family but it is also intertwined in a complicated love story between the two protagonists – renowned children’s book author Ko Mun-yeong and a carer on a psychiatric ward – Moon Gang-tae (played by Kim Soo-hyun, who is apparently currently the highest paid actor in South Korea!)

Betty en NY – Mexico/US

This heartwarming telenovela was one of the best things I watched over a lockdown. Based on the original telenovela the popular US TV show Ugly Betty was based on, this series follows Betty as she takes a job as an EA in a fashion house – finds herself and finds love and fights for it! There are so many hilarious moments and the production of this show is so intricate – from the gowns to the sets themselves – everything is to be admired. Do bear in mind though that as a telenovela it’s quite a lengthy show, spanning over 100 episodes I believe. But even with that in mind I was so disappointed when it finished!

Citation – Nigeria

At the start of this film, we see that the protagonist student, Moremi (Temi Otedola) has filed a complaint against one of her university lecturers for attempted sexual assault. What follows is a battle of he said/she said accompanied by flashbacks which reveal the truth to us watching of what really happened. Moremi is a smart, determined female character, I like that she wouldn’t take the injustice she experienced lying down. I did find the constant jumping in between the present and the past a bit confusing at times but there is good commentary to be taken from this film on the many obstacles victims of assault and harassment face when trying to ensure their perpetrators are punished.

The Fishermen’s Diary – Cameroon

This remarkable film chronicles a young girl called Ekah who lives in a fishing village with her dad and longs for an education. She often sees all the young school kids running through the village and longs to be amongst them. However, he dad – one amongst many in the village who don’t see educating girls as a necessary investment – refuses to let her go to school. However, this doesn’t stop Ekah and she decides to take her education into her own hands; – the question is, will she succeed? The sombre realism of this film, was saddening and made it a hard, but yet inspiring watch as you witness this resilient little girl overcome so many obstacles to obtain something many of us take for granted.

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That’s all from me! Let me know if you have watched any of these or have some international film/drama recommendations for me to add to my list.

Don’t forget to follow me on IG @TheArtofChatter 🙂

The higher we climb, the harder we fall…

Trigger warning: I touch on the topics of mental illness, addiction and eating disorders in this piece.

Watching Demi Lovato’s docu-series on Youtube ‘Dancing with the Devil’, which chronicles their journey with addiction and their road to recovery, got me thinking this weekend about just how fragile we as humans are. We are flawed, often egotistical yet constantly learning as we navigate each stage of life. Why is it then that we love to put fellow humans on pedestals, elevating them to a standard even they themselves often feel they cannot reach?

This is one of the things Demi touches on during the documentary, as over the years they have become somewhat of a role model for many when it comes to mental health advocacy. However, what no-one knew was that they were battling with addiction on the side lines; making the public perception of them and what the real Demi was like as different as night and day.

I honestly could not imagine the amount of pressure such expectations can place on a person. You have 5,10,15-year-olds saying your art has changed their lives or got them through a hard time and that one day they want to be like you. It would be impossible to shrug that off without feeling some sort of burdensome weight of a duty to live up to this fantasy they have moulded of you.

Humans were not designed to be worshipped (for several obvious reasons.) A key one being we don’t have it all together, we don’t possess the perfection that is exclusively associated with God. Being idolised can definitely build ego but it can also create a quick path to inner destruction. Celebrity worship is often reductive – individuals are often being lauded all the time for a carefully crafted perception of themselves they and their teams have worked hard to portray. Or more simply, it could be because of looks alone or a talent like basketball or singing that makes people all googly eyed. Unfortunately, such talents are fleeting – they can take years to build and be gone in a matter of minutes.

So, in other words, we’re never really worshipping celebrities for who they are because we’ll never be privy to the real them, we’re in love with who we think they are. The unrealistic expectations of others become internalised which can then manifest themselves in toxic ways – for Demi, for example this was through disordered eating. This coupled with the toxic nature of cancel culture means there’s also a pressure to never step over the line. Making mistakes (whether publicly or not) is part of growing up but nowadays, one wrong step and your career is in jeopardy.

Demi isn’t the only one who has recently grappled with mental health in the public eye. Naomi Osaka recently withdrew from the French Open after being forced by event organisers to since they wouldn’t allow her to pass on media interviews for the sake of her mental health. Jesy Nelson, former member of the British girl band Little Mix recently left the band, stating reasons related to the protection of mental health. Similarly, in the past many other celebrities have been open about their struggles with mental illness – Billie Eilish, Kanye West and even Mariah Carey, to name a few.

Of course, fame hasn’t been the direct cause of mental health struggles for many celebrities but it can certainly exacerbate them, especially if they previously existed before fame. For Naomi and Jesy it seemed as if they had reached the point where mental wellbeing and peace could not exist alongside the environment they were working in, so an ultimatum was reached. The fact many people, famous or not, have to choose between their work or mental wellbeing is very unfortunate. It shows – despite or the lovely ‘discussions’ we are having around mental health – we still have a long way to go in properly providing the related support people need for recovery, treatment or prevention.

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Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading more on celebrity culture I wrote about some thoughts after watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary which you can read here.

The Evil within: A review of Girl From Nowhere

‘Underneath it all we’re just savages, hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages’ – Savages by Marina and the Diamonds

Many theories have argued throughout time that without the laws, social conventions and norms society has created, humans would truly not function properly. The result? Think Lord of the Flies/ The Purge type anarchy. Of course, we’ve never been in the conditions to truly test the validity of this line of thought but if many true crime cases, past and present, have taught us anything is that in the right circumstances humans will naturally care about nothing but themselves.

Recently I’ve been watching the Thai drama on Netflix, Girl from Nowhere. The series centres around a seemingly innocent girl named Nanno who joins a school and starts causing havoc by bringing out the inner demons in those around her. In each episode she operates in a new school and deals with different characters who battle with different individual vices. For the most part she acts as their tempter, the snake to their Eve, honing in on their deepest desires and dangling in front of them something that will unlock them if only they take the bait.

What distinguishes this drama from many others is that not much is revealed about its mysterious protagonist at all – all we do know is that she is devious – borderline genius, borderline maniac. She also doesn’t appear to human meaning the lengths she goes to to teach people the error of their ways will undoubtedly shock you. A Thai audience may perhaps see Nanno has an executor of karmic justice, avenging those who have been wronged and punishing wrongdoers for acts that may have otherwise gone unpunished.

However – and bafflingly so – in some episodes she does seem to torment people that don’t necessarily seem to deserve it. (TK from season one (ep8) and Jenny X from season 2 (ep7)) come to mind.) Yes, they have their issues but then again who doesn’t? Does makes you wonder a bit about how exactly Nanno goes about choosing her targets…

Lots of questions are raised and I enjoy the subtle social commentary found in each episode. Ultimately at the heart of each episode is the question, can this person change? It seems like the assumption to this question in most of the dramas episodes is ‘no’, although we can never say for sure with certainty.

Season two was recently released (which I have now finished 😅) and definitely ups the ante whilst, interestingly, revealing a possible more ‘human’ side to Nanno.

Note that although I would recommend the drama, I would do so cautiously since it has very dark themes (it is rated an 18 on Netflix). A few twitter users have circulated guide with trigger warnings for each episode of season one, which may prove useful. For those who liked the popular drama Black Mirror (also on Netflix) then this drama is definitely for you.

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Have you watched Girl from Nowhere or do you perhaps have it on your Netflix list? Share below and we can discuss! 😊

Some films I’ve recently watched on Netflix include: The Woman in the Window, Run (Netflix film featuring Sarah Paulson), Love Squared, Rich in Love and Atlantics.

*Featured image belongs to Netlfix.

Image description: Protagonist Nanno stands leaning on a wall within a corridor, wearing a school uniform whilst looking into the distance.

You Had to Be There

Sometimes moments are just for us

Between us two

Between our eyes, between our hearts, between our lips.

As gravity pulls us down and love draws us closer

We’re sworn to silence with

echoes of laughter

It’s often very hard to capture certain moments you experience in words. This is why I’ve often been in awe when celebrities who go on late night shows like Graham Norton retell funny stories with the enthusiasm and enough dramatics in the right places to have you hooked and eventually chuckling. Perhaps the skill partially lies in their acting training, after all mastering the ability to create whole worlds with your words would, naturally I presume, make you a great storyteller. It’s likely they’ve had practice telling certain stories too since I’m sure some have the ability to be natural crowd-pleasers wherever they go.

However, on the other hand, sometimes when I retell a story I can just hear myself letting the story down, not doing justice to the moment itself and how vivid or exciting it was. How scared or taken by surprise I was. Or how elated I felt. It’s almost feels like how when you boil certain vegetables, they tend to lose the goodness they hold in their raw state. You’ve experienced the ‘raw goodness’ of the moment (so to speak) and now or you can serve those who weren’t there is the boiled leftovers of that moment.

Moment 4 Life

To be honest, this inability to capture some moments in words is not always a bad thing. It can actually make you more appreciative of the moments you share with those close to you because it’s likely that outside of the bubble of that moment between you and the people within it, the magic of it cannot be recreated.

Sometimes when on the verge of such moments I often get excited and – with the anticipation – even feel a tinge of sadness as I imagine the moment fizzling to an end and becoming a simple memory. Does anyone else experience that or is it just me? The best way to describe it is like the anticipation you feel as you bake something and are watching the batter rise in the tin through the small oven window. You’ve done everything the recipe instructed, and now you’re expecting greatness. Of course, with moments you experience there’s lot of other factors that come into consideration; even if you’re with your favourite people or person in a great place, moods, actions and conversation need to align to create that magical spark you’ll remember for years to come when recollecting that period. It’s not often the spark happens, but when it does – especially unexpected – it’s really beautiful.

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Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow my blog here and on Instagram @TheArtofChatter

Liked this topic? You can find another post I’ve done exploring the nature of memories here or one on special moments here.

*Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Alcoholic

He looks into his glass

Hoping to see the reflection of a saviour

In the swirl of brown liquor before him.

Propped up by the blindness of others

He sips and is violently propelled to a high

Of ethereal happiness

Narrowly just avoiding the grasps of reality

By ordering another drink

Embracing Uncertainty

No Risk, No Reward

‘Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ – Matthew 6:34

It’s impossible to live a live free from risk. Even if you think you live a comfortable life, it just means it has minimal risk as opposed to no risk at all.

Every decision we make involves stepping into the unknown (even if it’s just a tiny step); from accepting a new role, to starting a new relationship or moving to a new location.

I don’t know about you but I get very annoyed when I don’t know enough things. You think the problem of ignorance will lessen over time but the truth is it never does. In a world of constant change, we will always have gaps in our knowledge – collectively as a species and individually in life too. It means when you’re making a decision and you don’t have all the information (which is always.) You wonder, will this decision work out to my benefit or to my good?

Interestingly, although we all similar risks in life, society is designed to celebrate those who made risks that paid off. The person who happened to invest stock in a start-up eventually valued at billions. The marriage that has lasted over 50 years. The mother who happened to have raised the next flashiest millionaire. Subconsciously, it puts a lot of pressure on us when we make big decisions. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to be ridiculed. We don’t want to be the ones that it goes wrong for which means we then have to experience the aftermath of comparing ourselves to others who made a risk and thrived. So yes, as I said – a lot of pressure. But also, a lot of worry and fear. If you have the habit of overthinking, like I do, then it’s easy for feelings to leave you in a state of paralysis.

Taking charge, having faith

Ultimately, even if armed with all the information humanly possible, a decision we make can still go left. You can research a house and area thoroughly, or spend time dating someone and getting to know them properly for several years. However, it won’t always prepare you for things you’ll discover when you finally buy the house and are living in it or when you’re living with that person as a married couple.

Unfortunately, there are some things you just won’t know until you lived through the experience and have a story to tell. I’m starting to learn that an important part of life is embracing uncertainty, and taking risks despite them. Obviously, do this with discernment – try and make informed decisions and reflect on the source of your uncertainty since (especially in relationships) it can sometimes be a red flag. However, I am a strong believer that God knowing all and us knowing not much in comparison is definitely not a mistake.

Investing in Rest

‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work.’- Genesis 2:2

True story – in the process of writing this post I was looking for a nice little quote to compliment it on the topic of rest. I was quite surprised to find the quotes on rest that I found were mostly negative. Some examples below:

‘You’ll have time to rest when you’re dead’ – Robert De Niro

‘If you rest, you rust’ – Helen Hayes

Rest vs work

Embedded deep in the mentality behind such quotes is the belief that rest is counterproductive to getting work done. However, to avoid falling for such fallacy it is important to always think of the bigger picture – a period of rejuvenation helps us not only get more work done in the long-run, it also helps us get better work done. Of course, I found some more positive quotes later on but these quotes indicate a wider problem in our society – we really don’t know how to rest. I’ve written a bit about this topic here in a previous blog post, but as we continue life post-Easter break in the UK (which was hopefully filled with rest for many), I wanted to touch on it some more.

The social media hustle and grind culture, which primarily focuses on non-stop working in order to be wealthy can be quite counterproductive at times. For example, the rise in young people having a ‘side hustle’ – has been very transformative to some, I’m sure, but it also means a now blurred line between rest and work since an activity which used to be part of the former for you, has now become the latter. Statistics from 2018 showed 40% of people in the UK who were surveyed had a side hustle. 40%! Someone tweeted the other day an observation that this trend of young people in particular monetising their hobbies is really not normal, and I’m inclined to agree. As mentioned in the article just linked, the rise of side hustles is due to increasing job insecurity, an issue which, like many others, has likely only been exacerbated by the pandemic. All I’ll say is, nothing – not even the alluring promise of success and wealth, is worth killing yourself over. Do note, I’m not anti-side hustle, but I do believe with such endeavours it can become all to easy to stretch yourself thin, that’s all.

Rest = doing nothing?

You may have noticed that above I referred to activities that help with your rest. Contrary to the way it is sometimes portrayed in the media, the art of resting is not just limited to sleep or doing nothing at all. Certain activities we enjoy have a calming effect on us and are perfect for unwinding – whether it be stretching, baking or going for a stroll.

A month or two ago, for example, I did a colouring in activity as part of church weekend retreat (done virtually this year, of course) and I have to say it was surprisingly very refreshing. It’s quite a mindless activity and honestly it was the first time I had done it since I was a child. For a split moment of your day, your only and foremost concern is co-ordinating colours and colouring within the lines of the image outline. I can now understand why in recent years adult colouring books have been trending.

Here are some things that could perhaps restore your work/life balance and help you get better rest:

  • Know the signs of burnout – physical tiredness, headaches, irritation, lack of concentration etc. Being burnt out makes it harder to work so it’s important to know the signs so you can quickly dial things back in and get some rest.
  • Say NO – it is important to be possessive with your me-time, don’t make it ‘us’ time bybending to the needs of others
  • The importance of discipline – put that work device away – it can wait till after your holiday or weekend is over!
  • What is your escape? – have a magic carpet – something that can you can temporarily dive into to relax and distract you a bit from the world’s madness. For me it’s definitely books and TV shows; what are yours?

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Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

Make sure to follow my blog on IG @TheArtofChatter

The Mystery of Love 2.0 – when love and tech collide: A Review of The One and Love Alarm (Season 2)

I’m sure if you surveyed the average person, they would tell you that they wanted to find love (if they haven’t already.) However, that journey is a tough, steep one that holds many challenges for several reasons. Social media, and much later, dating apps have already transformed the dating process massively in a relatively short space of time. The two most recent dramas I’ve watch watched on Netflix explore how technology (and science) could further impact dating and relationships in the future and what the effects on individuals lives could look like. Worth a watch or not? Have a read and decide.

The One

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking
Rebecca Webb (right) with co-founder of The One and close friend from university days, James (left).

This is a new British sci-fi drama and Netflix original consisting of 8 episodes, based on a book of the same by John Marrs. I watched it recently after seeing it in my upcoming list of shows and being intrigued by the blurb (the apps good ol’ algorithm never seems to fail, eh?) In the drama ‘The One’ is the name of the company which provides a matching service based on DNA. It’s as simple as you think – people take swabs, send them to the company and find out who their biologically destined match is! The series follows Rebecca Webb, co-creator and CEO of The One as she goes through desperate lengths to find happiness herself and maintain her position of power at the top of the company. Yet, as the series goes on we find out Rebecca is a woman with a lot to hide and this begins to look less and less possible as secrets are revealed and lives are lost. Definitely worth a watch.

Although, a slightly deterministic approach to love upon initial reading, the interesting thing about this matching approach is that choice does play a huge role in the success of matches. This is contrary to what many of the users of the service seem to think in the drama. Their mentality is ‘we’ve been ‘matched’ so you must be my soulmate, we’re meant to be!’ Which, as you watch the drama, will find to not necessarily be the case. DNA alone cannot be a sole indicator of a good partner, several other factors have to come together to create a successful relationship. As many of the characters discover – secrets, selfishness and lies can easily put an end to any potential happiness you may have or think you serve with your match.

Love Alarm (season 2)

This K-drama is based on a popular web-toon (online comic) of the same name. In the drama, relationships are largely dictated or guided by a widely used app called Love Alarm, which is able to notify you if anyone within a certain radius from you has feelings for you. It was originally created by the protagonist’s (Kim JoJo) former classmate, Chon Duk-gu – an illusive and shy character, who admits he created the app because of his difficulty deciphering the feelings of people around him. To simply the app, it helps users answer the question ‘does my crush (or partner) like me back?’

Is Love Alarm season 2 getting renewed? Here is everything you need to  know!!
Promotional poster for the show – from L to R – Sun-Oh, Kim JoJo and Hye-yeong

For those that have battled with frustration caused by mixed signals from someone they liked, this app sounds quite dreamy. Yet – since there’s always a yet – it doesn’t take long to discover it, like the DNA matching service in The One, has its problems. We don’t necessarily see how widespread usage of the app is working, but rather we see a microcosm of its effects through the drama’s main characters. One obvious effect it provides a very awkward and public display of unrequited ‘love’. If two individuals are in close proximity of each other the app will notify one of those people that ‘someone who loves you is within close distance’. However, for the other person…it won’t which can be both scary and heart-breaking.

The app starts to act as an obstacle for characters who are in relationships on the show. For example, Sun-oh’s girlfriend reveals that she dreams about him ringing her love alarm – something he is not able to do when they’re dating. Similarly, due to events from the previous season, Kim JoJo is not able to ring the ‘alarm’ of anyone she likes because she has a feature called a ‘shield’ installed on her app. In her relationship with Hye-yeong, this slowly starts to torture her as she begins to suspect that maybe this is saddening her boyfriend and causing him to doubt her feelings for him.

To Conclude…

Overall, I would say that both dramas show how technology – as we undoubtedly already know – can do more harm then good, even if created with the sincerest intentions. We already use much tech at work and in the home successfully. But with widespread and frequent usage in many circumstances we run the risk of using tech as a crutch, much to our own disadvantage. It tends to happen gradually and then – next thing you know, you can’t remember the birthdays or phones numbers of your friends with your phone, for example! (Based on a true story.) In both shows, we see technology has altered the process of dating and its requirements for many people. The agency seems to shift from self to tech so instead the characters fall into the trap of not thinking for themselves enough. Don’t get me wrong, love is an amazing thing but I think it needs a bit of mystery and effort; surely then the product is more rewarding?