As the Covid-19 pandemic moves across Europe, most of us are staying safe and staying at home.
As we dutifully practice social distancing, we find ourselves cooped up in our homes. So after you’ve finished your remote work shift, what better way to wind down than watching the best in TV shows and movies that emerging Europe has to offer?
Here’s a list of the most interesting, funniest, poignant, and just downright strange shows, films, and documentaries from across the region.
Best of all, they are all available to watch online via various streaming services. Take heed, because some of these are quite binge-worthy.
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Honeyland is a 2019 documentary film from North Macedonia following the life of Hatidže Muratova, one of the last wild beekeepers in Europe.
Hatidže, who is of Turkish descent, lives in a remote Macedonian village with her bed-ridden mother. They have no electricity or running water and survive on the proceeds from selling honey.
This honey is collected in a traditional way that includes leaving half of it to the bees and respecting the bee colony it comes from. To get the honey Hatidže has to climb along the craggy mountainsides to find beehives in the cracks.
Exploring the themes of climate change, biodiversity loss, and exploitation of natural resources, the film resonates far beyond its geographical constraints.
Honeyland is a visual treat as well, with stunning shots of natural beauty intermixed with intimate tableaux of a mother-daughter relationship. With minimal dialog and a “fly-on-the-wall” feel, it’s a movie that will satisfy discerning cinephiles looking for something artistic and full of impact.
When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize, the Special Jury Award for Impact for Change and the Special Jury Award for Cinematography.
Critics have heaped praise on the film, which now holds a 100 per cent certified fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com.
Black Sun (Serbia)
Prestige TV is all the rage these days with shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Detective, and The Young Pope dominating pop-culture conversations.
Black Sun, also known as Shadows over Balkan, is a Serbian attempt at a prestige TV show.
Set in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes this explosive thriller follows two 1930s police inspectors as they try to untangle a potentially supernatural series of murders.
It has everything you would expect from a serious TV offering. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s violent, and very sexy.
Black Sun is the Serbian response to True Detective, and is now available to stream on Amazon.
Oh, Ramona! (Romania)
From Romania comes a funny and raunchy take on romance and growing up.
Following in the footsteps of the perennial classic American Pie you can expect a crude, vulgar, and slightly off-putting time as the protagonist Andrei decides whether to go for the “hottest girl in school” Ramona or the more subdued Anemona.
Based on a book called Suck it, Ramona! there’s no subtlety to be found here. Only a relentless assault of shock humor that made the Daily Dot call it “the worst Netflix move of 2019.”
And yet, there is definitely a kind of audience that can enjoy a controversial film like this one. Because, this is the first Romanian movie to exceed one million US dollars in gross takings at the box office.
Why not see what all the kerfuffle is for yourself? It’s on Netflix.
Croatia has thrown its hat into the ring with Success.
A dark and labyrinthine thriller brings together four unlikely heroes as they become mired in what seems to be a vast conspiracy involving powerful and shadowy players across the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Prior to being produced the show won an HBO pilot contest, beating many different submissions from the Adria region.
If you’re familiar with HBO’s thriller offerings, you’ll know what to expect here. Intricate plots, a brooding atmosphere, and violence abound.
What elevates Success over many similar shows is the expert direction by Danis Tanović, best known for snagging an Oscar for his celebrated war film, No Man’s Land, in 2001.
Watch Success at HBO Go (where available).
Pretty Dyana and Tarot Serbia (Serbia)
We are including these two Serbian documentaries as one entry because even though their subjects are vastly different, they both show a strange and unseen side of life in Serbia.
Pretty Dyana is a documentary from 2003 following the lives of Romani refugees in Belgrade as they collect cardboard, bottle caps, and scrap metal in order to make a living.
The twist? They transform Citroen’s classic 2CV and Dyana cars into Mad Max-inspired recycling powerhouses.
This gives them an edge over the cart-pushing competition but also serves as a symbol of craftiness and perseverance.
Filmed in an in-your-face gonzo style, it’s a gripping portrait of the most disadvantaged people in Serbian society.
Pretty Dyana is available on a pay-per-view basis from dafilms.com
Tarot Serbia meanwhile is a baffling look into the superstitious side of life. The subject of the documentary, Milan Radonjić, offers his divination and exorcism services to people across the region.
But his methods have left many wondering if the whole thing could be an elaborate performance art piece.
Known for his late-night call-in TV shows, he quickly became the subject of mainstream interest thanks to the bizarre advice he offered his callers.
Among them, “you will be pregnant in seven days if you read Pinocchio every day” and his advice for unlucky people to rub ketchup and mayonnaise into their scalp.
The film follows Milan as he travels through the region offering his off-kilter brand of spiritual aid to the put upon masses.
The documentary is available to watch for free on Vimeo with English subtitles.
The Pack (Poland)
Proving that high-octane action dramas don’t have to come from Hollywood is The Pack (also known as The Border). Another dark and serious thriller from HBO’s kitchen, this series follows Captain Wiktor Rebrow of the Polish Border Guard.
Across three dramatic and action-packed seasons, he will try to solve the mystery of an explosion that killed his colleagues.
Traffickers and guards also clash, and a state prosecutor is tracking Rebrow, suspicious of the fact that he is the only survivor of the terrorist attack.
But it’s not just action you can expect from this series. Patient viewers will be rewarded with a slowly unfolding but very uncompromising look at the realities of human trafficking and border security in a tumultuous time and region.
Uncomfortably topical at times, The Pack is anything but a mindless action TV show.
See why it’s consistently topped viewership charts in Poland on HBO Go (where available).