Netflix: the best-kept secrets


Netflix: the best-kept secrets

Dark days lie ahead for English content, writes PIETER VAN DER LUGT, but Netflix and others offer subtitled treasures that are easily overlooked. He recommends a few.


HOLLYWOOD's writers and actors have been on strike since May, and it's the first time in 60 years that the two groups have stood together like this. All the best and thousands of dollars to them, but that means in time there will be a shortage of English viewing material. Even dubbed content will become rarer.

It's a blessing in disguise for non-English art creators, but also for viewers who sometimes get tired of the stiff old Anglosphere. When this happens, you can catch your breath behind the half-inch-high barrier of subtitles, as film director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) calls it.

Not that everything on the other side of the wall is better, but few things can refresh a brain like novel views and insights.

For now, Netflix remains the best streaming service for new and adventurous things (not a sponsored post). Here are 10 of the recent winners, hopefully with enough variety for anyone.

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A stir-fry cook from a street restaurant gets a chance to work for a top chef. He is a cold, arrogant, kitchen cliché, but she stands up to him. The social commentary is sharp and it's clever how the poker-faced chef shows through his food what he thinks of his rich and empowered customers. (Thai)


A Stasi agent in East Germany is falsely accused of treason and imprisoned for life, then the Wall falls and the sinister system that abused her disintegrates. She is free to take revenge on everyone who has treated her unjustly and she does so with reckless abandon. It becomes a fun revenge fantasy with nice absurd twists. (German)

The Law According to Lidia Poët

Italy's first female lawyer had to fight for a long time for women's rightful place in court. The first you see of her is a lot, but don't think it's just another steamy costume drama. It's also a striking portrait of the engulfing paternalism she had to stand up against. (Italian)

Extraordinary Attorney Woo 

Her father sacrificed his law studies for his autistic child. Now she has easily passed her exams with her perfect memory and can start working. In the trailer, she might look too cute, but don't jump to any conclusions. This court series tackles sensitive themes, of which prejudice against autism is just one. It was Netflix's most popular non-English series, worldwide, for months. (Korean)

Barracuda Queens

Super-rich Sweden is an easy target for satire, and this series pulls its citizens apart with abandon. It's about a couple of school friends who rob their neighbours to pay for an unexpectedly expensive weekend. Based on a true story, believe it or not. (Swedish)

Belascoarán, PI 

Thick-skinned is an understatement for this private detective who tries to eradicate weeds in Mexico City in the 1970s. Some Spanish viewers complain that the series is a weak adaptation of Paco Ignacio Taibo II's popular books, but it is a stylish offering. (Mexican)


A cleaner anxiously awaits her husband's release from prison because she needs moral support after a tragedy. He doesn't make an appearance and she goes looking for him in the twilight world where he did his thing. Burcu Biricik in the lead role is startlingly intense. It's the kind of acting that earns Emmys. (Turkish)

Call Me Chihiro

Some English critics, especially the American subspecies, soon lose patience with a movie that does not announce its statement in capital letters. A movie like this one. It's a quiet, peaceful story about a former sex worker who starts working  at a takeaway kiosk and improves the lives of a colourful bunch of characters. What she has to learn about herself … is the point of the movie. (Japanese)

Green Frontier

A young detective from Bogotá investigates the murder of four indigenous women in the Amazon. There are signs — such as crudely inserted shots of wildlife — that the budget was tiny, but the series has a dreamy atmosphere you can sink into and is a fascinating depiction of clashing cultures. (Spanish, Portuguese)

Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery

A vain politician demands that the police look for two expensive fruits that were stolen from his tree. His gardener's daughter disappeared at the same time and Inspector Mahima devises a way to search for the girl unnoticed. Right there, this light, endearing comedy suddenly makes topical statements. Sanya Malhotra's fine acting makes up for the dull spots and the picture's big heart is irresistible. (Hindi)

♦ VWB ♦

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