“Suburra”, an orgy of murder, blackmail, suicide and political corruption, was not the highest-grossing Italian film last year, but it was certainly the most talked about. Seemingly improbable, the plot nevertheless echoes real-life revelations about the reach of organised crime in contemporary Rome. Netflix is turning “Suburra” into a ten-part series, its first Italian production.
“Our Perfect Wedding” follows young couples getting married with traditional flair, from Tsonga dance moves to Zulu-style veils and lobola (bride price) negotiations – all of it dissected with glee by South Africans on Twitter when the programme airs every Sunday night. But some episodes have taken disturbing turns, like the one in which a taxi driver boasts about sleeping with schoolgirls – shocking in a country with disturbingly high levels of rape.
On the big screen, for all its cultural subsidies, France cannot withstand the force of Hollywood or the “Star Wars” franchise: 55% of ticket sales last year were for American movies. But fresh French-made drama, inspired by HBO-style productions, is thriving on TV, and all eyes are on a crime-and-politics series, “Marseille”, Netflix’s first French drama, airing in May and starring Gérard Depardieu.
“Asa ga Kita” (“Here Comes the Morning”) is a popular television drama series made by NHK, Japan’s public-service broadcaster, based on the story of Asako Hirooka, a businesswoman whose life straddled Japan’s transition from feudalism to capitalism. Her story resonates with contemporary viewers looking for female models during another period of uncertainty and change.
A TV show about a greying patriarch who is finally ready to live as a transgender woman is clearly of the moment. But “Transparent”, an award-winning series from Jill Soloway, made by Amazon and now in its second season, is not merely a timely meditation on gender, but also a tender portrait of an ageing Californian family struggling with growing pains. As the brave, bewigged Maura Pfefferman, Jeffrey Tambor is particularly poignant.
Viewers have lapped up a new TV adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning Soviet epic “Tikhiy Don” (“And Quiet Flows the Don”), which tells the tale of Russia’s Cossacks during the first world war, the revolution and the civil war. The four-volume novel, supposedly written by Mikhail Sholokhov between 1925 and 1940, has been the subject of fierce debate in Russian literary circles, with many questioning whether the poorly educated Sholokhov was indeed the real or sole author.